• About Tom Dougherty

    Tom Dougherty CEO, Stealing Share

    Tom Dougherty is the President and CEO of Stealing Share, Inc., and has helped national and global brands such as Lexus, IKEA and Tide steal market share over his 25-year career.

    An often-quoted source on business and brands, he has been featured recently by the New York Times and CNN, discussing topics ranging from television to Apple to airlines.

    Tom also regularly speaks at conferences as a keynote and break-out speaker. To find out more on inviting him to your speaking engagement and view a video of him speaking, click here.

    You can also reach him via email attomd@stealingshare.com.

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The Tom Dougherty Blog

Nintendo is finally making apps

When I was young, I enjoyed arcade classics like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. Simple games that involved a joystick and a couple of buttons. These days, I am afraid I could never learn what the plethora of buttons do on a Playstation or X-Box controller. Ultimately, I would end up doing the button “mash” to accomplish much of anything. This is why a video game controller hasn’t touched my hand in decades.

This is where Nintendo needs to put its games.

It is also probably why the one gaming brand I am attracted to is Nintendo. Its systems have always felt like they were rooted in simplicity. Which is an attribute I admire. The brand houses some of the most recognizable gaming characters like Mario and Link.

A handful of years ago, Nintendo was riding high on its Wii system. A Wii system was once next to impossible to wrangle. Customers would snatch them up as soon as they hit the selling floor almost a year after their release.

Since then, Nintendo has been on the decline. The Wii U, an updated version of its predecessor, never hit home with audiences. Moreover, the company recently reported mediocre Q4 results.

Nintendo needs to think outside of the box.

All of this means that Nintendo doesn’t have the same permission to release the action packed, shoot-em up games as its rivals do and must consider a new strategy. For instance, the company has to think more innocently with its games — consider the titles it offers compared to its competitors. Yoshi World vs. Grand Theft Auto.

A few years back, I was contemplating the next steps that the gaming giant should make. Then, I suggested that the company needed to look outside of itself and partner with a company that is top-of-mind, like Apple.

Turns out, Nintendo is doing just that.

Its first foray into the Apple app world was a failed social network/game attempt. However, I have high hopes for its second attempt which will feature a “very familiar character.” This is its best move since the release of the Wii.

By joining the Apple ecosystem, Nintendo’s reach expands tenfold. With Sony and Microsoft ruling the gaming category, Nintendo now has permission to “Think Different.”

The brand of Cam Newton

The quarterback matchup in Super Bowl 50 is going to be fierce, with the old guard (Peyton Manning) facing the new one (Cam Newton) in a battle of contrasting styles.

Cam Newton
Who doesn’t like Cam Newton?

And I’m not just talking about what happens on the field. No, a recent poll among industry insiders by NYSportsJournalism.com named Newton as the most marketable player in the NFL.

That means he’s topping Manning, who led the NFL this season in endorsements with more than $12 million pocketed. That’s no surprise to anyone as we’ve all seen him in spots for Papa John’s, Nationwide, Nike, DirecTV and Buick.

Cam Newton, meanwhile, has signed deals with Under Armor, Dannon Oikos, Gatorade, Microsoft, Beats by Dre, GMC, Drakker Essence, EA Sports and Belk. That doesn’t even account for being the host of Nickelodeon’s upcoming “I Wanna Be,” an adventure-documentary series set to air later this year.

What’s interesting to me is that there has been some consternation in the media about Cam Newton’s actions on the field. Letters to The Charlotte Observer have chided him for dancing in the end zone, pointing after a first down and generally playing against the stereotype of the stoic NFL quarterback.

(Never mind that Aaron Rodgers does the championship belt move after a TD or that JJ Watt screams or that Rob Gronkowski slams the ball to the ground.)

The supposed outrage against Newton is actually small and simply a made-up storyline for Super Bowl week. However, Cam Newton is a new kind of quarterback. One who plays with joy. He is often smiling, high-fiving teammates and giving footballs to the kids lining the end zone stands.

Even though I might have some bias because I live in North Carolina, I ask: How can you not like that?

What Cam Newton means to Millennials.

There’s another part to this, and I don’t mean the race angle that has popped up in some discussions. We’re entering a new age when it comes to demographics. Advertisers are scrambling to understand Millennials, the incoming buying audience.

Like any new generation, its members have their own personality traits. What makes Millennials so different is that they are the first generation to grow up in the iPhone world.

There’s not the space here to go into how today’s world has affected them. But our research demonstrates that Millennials are less judgmental than previous generations and a Cam Newton-style quarterback is more in line with their personalities than the stoic images of Unitas, Montana, Manning and the like.

So, no matter where you stand on the Cam Newton issue today, you’d better get used to it. Cam Newton, the marketable NFL player, is here to stay.

Political party brands today

The problem with the political party brands of today.

Brand reveals a great deal about those that embrace it. We know that the most powerful brands in the world are those that express the positive aspirations of those that adhere to it.

Political party brands
The current political party brands should be more optimistic.

There are many brands at play in the United States today and, while the political party brands are mere sub-brands of the US parent brand, we need to be careful as to the values of the sub-brands and recognize that they reflect upon the parent and often change the parent brand.

As an example, Volkswagen, the parent brand of the German automaker, has been adversely affected by a breach in trust from one of its automobile sub-brands. The diesel emission controversy has affected the Volkswagen brand itself. We all wonder how trustworthy any claim made by VW itself might be taken. This loss of brand luster is not felt just by the purchasers of the cars and the dealerships that sell them. Rest assured that the workers and engineers that make and create the cars also feel let down and betrayed.

Both political party brands are guilty.

My comments today are aimed directly at both main political party brands today because they are both guilty of the same offense. They both besmirch the parent brand. The United States itself.

Recent polling indicates that most citizens in the US today are furious at the government’s ability to work. Shelby Foote, the late great Civil War historian, once said that the Civil War was a result of an inability to come to peaceful compromise. To which, he added, “had always been our genius.” We all know that the vitriol being eschewed by both parties, while entertaining, is at its root destructive. Look to history to see examples of change agents who created a sense of American accomplishment while correcting government ills. Both political party brands can lay claim to this.

Ronald Reagan, one of the most revered of American Presidents ignited a powerful desire for corrective change while instilling in Americans a sense of accomplishment and destiny. No one could accuse Ronald Reagan of meanness or pettiness. He was at the same time passionate and affable.

On the Democratic side, look to FDR as an example of a President elected in a period of great problems. His positiveness and affable personality guided the nation through its most challenging times. No one could accuse Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan of the meanness and woe is me politics we find ourselves subjected to today. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil were friendly adversaries. They liked each other and found a way to be united in purpose. As a result, government worked.

Is it possible to be a proud American and think our nation is on the verge of ruin? Can we elect officials who tell us that government can’t be trusted? Do we wish to be party to the sort of rhetoric that is in many ways responsible for the very state of affairs to which we all complain?

Let’s demand more from our emotional sub-brands. Let’s remember that all is not bad in America and that by working together, building bridges and not by constructing barriers we all benefit and our proud parent brand— the United States of America — is no longer sullied.

Shock Top and Super Bowl advertising

It demonstrates the how ineffective most Super Bowl ads are that Budweiser’s Shock Top beer ad could end up being the best of the night.

Shock Top
Will Shock Top be the best the Super Bowl has to offer?

Before we get to the spot itself, there are inherent reasons why advertising during the TV event of the year rarely works out. One is that the cost of buying airtime is so high ($5 million for a 30-second spot) that I generally feel the money is best spent elsewhere.

But if you decide to do a Super Bowl ad, it should be about more than just raising awareness. And that’s the real problem. The companies financially able to afford a Super Bowl spot usually don’t have an awareness problem.

Secondly, and most importantly, ad agencies use Super Bowl spots to win awards, which is why the ads are produced strictly as entertainment. They often do very little to actually steal market share.

In fact, on Monday, when all of us (including possibly me) rate the night’s ads, we usually rate them based on their entertainment value. Not on how effective they are in increasing market share.

At least Shock Top has some meaning in its spot.

But here’s an interesting way to do it: Budweiser’s Shock Top beer ad. This is a beer brand that is not as well known as many of the other Budweiser brands, so its awareness is in need of raising. (Don’t fret. There will be plenty of Bud Lite ads aired during the game, I’m sure.) It is not, let’s say, Doritos who doesn’t have an awareness problem and whose Super Bowl ad is just a (somewhat lame) funny attempt at saying: Doritos are tasty.

No, most of us don’t know Shock Top beer. And the banter between comedian T.J. Miller and the Shock Top mascot is a personification of unfiltered talk for an unfiltered beer.

Budweiser will take that 1:25 spot and split it into 30-second spots for the Super Bowl, and I’ll admit that it’s pretty funny. (Check out Miller in the hilarious HBO comedy, Silicon Valley.)

The big three American lagers (Budweiser, Miller and Coors) have seen their market share eroded due to the rise of other offerings (wine, liquor, hard cider, etc.), especially microbrews.

Therefore, unfiltered by itself is not a switching trigger, but Shock Top has taken that product benefit and given it an emotional (and funny) meaning. It has at least followed through on its meaning, which is more than you will be able to say for most of the Super Bowl ads.

The Shock Top commercial may not be the best in class (I would have chosen another switching trigger and precept that exists in the market.) But, when watching the Super Bowl, count the number of ads you see whose message goes beyond the expected (such as that everybody, including a fetus, wants to have Doritos) and actually attempts a message.

You’ll be able to count on them with one hand.

What the Trump debate issue means

The Donald Trump debate controversy is both a brilliant move on Trump’s part and an opportunity for the other Republican candidates.

Trump debate
How does the Trump debate controversy play out?

Yes, I’ll be watching the debate tonight even without the presence of Trump because the most interesting part of this is what the other candidates will do. Will they use the stage to bash Trump? Will they bash each other? Will they continue to attack Hillary Clinton? Or will one of them emerge as an alternative to the Trump bluster?

Each of those tactics has a logic but also pose some danger. If they use the debate to take down Trump, it might seem petty because he won’t be there. It could, in effect, make Trump the de facto winner of the debate without him even being there.

A deft politician (and one hasn’t emerged among the Republican candidates yet) could straddle the line between seeming important while using the Trump debate controversy to damage Trump’s brand.

How candidates should handle the Trump debate issue.

If not that, then what are the candidates to do? They could go at one another (primarily Ted Cruz, I’m guessing, as he’s second in the polls) but that also helps Trump. It keeps him out of the fray and his standing untouched.

Taking on Clinton will no doubt happen, but that won’t distinguish any one of them from the others. It’s the safe strategy but it won’t change the polls (or the upcoming Iowa vote) much.

Instead, what’s called for is something much harder to do. There have been two problems facing the other candidates that need to be addressed tonight with the Trump debate issue hanging in the air. For one, Trump (and, to some extent, Cruz) has tapped into a belief that government is broken and that a certain target audience has not been heard or involved. That has left the so-called insiders (Rubio, Christie, Bush) fighting over the same votes, when one of them needs to drop out to consolidate that wing of the party.

In absence of that, though, none of them has found a belief they can align their own brands with that resonates with voters. No wonder Trump leads the polls. The rest of them just sound alike and trite. What does Marco Rubio stand for? Jeb? Christie? What belief system do they represent?

Answering those questions is the hard work of politics and brand building. The Trump debate situation sounds petty on the surface but Trump understands that he doesn’t do well in debates, he has nothing to gain by being involved and that the belief system he represents is about fighting the status quo.

As silly as it sounds, Trump staying out of the debate demonstrates a sort of strength to his voter base.

The only way the Trump debate controversy backfires on him is if one or two of the other candidates take the opportunity to present something new: A brand that represents another belief system strongly felt among Republican voters.

I’m not keeping my hopes up. And I’m sure Trump isn’t either.

Whole Foods is no longer unique

Whole Foods is in trouble and, even worse, its complacency for its brand has caused it.

Since the end of 2013, Whole Foods stock has lost about half of its value. Once the darling of Wall Street, hipsters and the ever-increasing health conscious shopper, the organic foods chain’s brand is based on the simple promise of being America’s Healthiest Grocery Store. But in recent years, it has become complacent with its brand and failed to adapt to a changing market.

Whole Foods
Whole Foods is no longer unique.

Whole Foods brought natural foods to the masses. It was (and still is) dedicated to bringing the most natural, organic and sustainable foods to its loyal customer base. As the desire for organic foods continued to rise, it grew at an exponential rate. Rising out of humble beginnings in Austin Texas in 1980, it now has 434 stores in the US, Canada and the UK.

The uniqueness of Whole Foods has disappeared.

For a long time, Whole Foods was nearly the only supermarket that sold organic and natural foods. When a direct competitor would pop up, it would simply acquire it.

Being the only chain that offered quality organic and natural foods, its was able to charge a premium for its products. So much so that its nickname is Whole Paycheck because of its prices. But even that did not deter consumers.

The problem is that Whole Foods failed to understand that its model could be duplicated. Naturally, as the desire for organic and natural foods continued to grow, supermarkets latched on to the trend and started to offer the same kinds of organic and natural products.

Very few people can afford to do all of their grocery shopping at Whole Foods. So, as they trickle into their local grocery store to pick up laundry detergent or toilet paper, they gradually began to see more and more organic and natural foods on the shelves and in the produce section.

And guess what? It was less expensive and, low and behold, tasted pretty much the same as what they were getting at Whole Foods. This trend has risen to the point where it is not the largest seller of organic foods anymore. Costco is.

What Whole Foods continues to not understand is that it is not in the organic food business. It is in the supermarket business. I say this because in today’s retail food market, in order to be a supermarket you HAVE to carry organic and natural foods. The public demands it and having organic foods is a table stake. Even Walmart is selling organic foods in its grocery departments.

Whole Foods believes it still can get a premium price for its organic and natural foods that can be purchased at any supermarket now, simply because Whole Foods is selling it. In essence, it thinks that consumers will pay more for its brand. While that might have been true a few years ago, its recent sales and stock performance demonstrate that it is not the case any longer.

Whole Foods has failed to give consumers a reason to continue to use it in a market in which competitors are selling like products at lower prices.

I am sure Whole Foods would say that its organic and natural products are better than those you can by at your local supermarket or Costco. But experience with its own customers is proving otherwise.

In order for Whole Foods to survive, it will have to modify its model and bring its pricing more in line with the rest of the market – and even that may not be enough.

Whole Foods must utilize what little brand clout it has left and find a way to reconnect with its once loyal customer base and also reach out to new customers. And this can only be done with its brand.

McDonalds breakfast ups sales

Last summer, I wrote a blog about McDonalds breakfast going all day. It detailed my belief that an all-day breakfast menu was just a temporary fix for the struggling fast food chain.

McDonalds breakfast
The rise caused by McDonalds breakfast won’t fix the overall problem.

This all is important to note because McDonalds announced that sales at locations that have been open for a minimum of 13 months have jumped by 5.7%. This steep level of growth is the highest that McDonalds has seen in over four years. Moreover, shares were also nearing an all-time high at $120.

This recent McDonalds breakfast growth is grand, but it does not reflect lasting change. And it certainly does not address the problems the chain faces for long-term growth.

McDonalds breakfast growth is superficial.

 I enjoy the Egg McMuffin and hash brown combo meal as much as anyone else. That’s especially true as a late-night fix. But that’s all the McDonalds breakfast is for McDonalds right now. A temporary fix.

Stealing Share has spent spent countless hours reflecting on the issues facing the fast food industry, and specifically McDonalds. That said, we remain steadfast in our belief that the dilemmas facing the franchise remain deeply intact.

Know this: The all-day McDonalds breakfast hasn’t garnered new customers, but has only found a way to keep the old faithful coming in on a more regular basis. That’s it.

When we speak of switching triggers, we ask ourselves to define the attributes that the brand delivers and identify those attributes that are of primary importance to the target audience. By definition, you only switch for the things you don’t already have.

Therefore, I leave you, the reader, to reflect upon the following question.

In the ever less popular fast food industry, has McDonalds breakfast done anything to bring new customers through the doors?

Why Al Jazeera America failed

The problems that led to the shutting down of Al Jazeera America go beyond the rational factors, such as falling oil prices (Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera, has been hit particularly hard).

Al Jazeera America
Al Jazeera America never could overcome the beliefs of the American public.

No, the main problem that faced Al Jazeera America was that it never defined what it was to an American audience that had been conditioned to think of Al Jazeera as the mouthpiece for radical Islam.

Having lived in the Middle East, I can assure you that Al Jazeera is a formidable and legitimate news agency. It is no more biased on that front than CNN.

But Al Jazeera America never tackled the belief system that runs through a great portion of television-watching America. Even when Peyton Manning was accused of taking HGH by the network, the claims were brushed aside because they came from Al Jazeera America.

Al Jazeera America could have overcome its hurdles.

Belief systems are powerful things. They are what drive our behavior. If you know the belief systems, or precepts, of your target audience, you can predict its behavior and even manipulate it. The precepts don’t even have to be true to be powerful. They just need to be believed.

In the case of Al Jazeera America, it simply never faced those beliefs. It just plopped itself in the lineups of some cable and satellite outlets and hoped it would catch fire.

The problem is that there are already too many news networks on the air, often ones that simply re-enforce what we already believe. FOX News is the most popular news network in the nation because it has aligned itself with a belief system (that the press is too liberal) of a large audience.

Al Jazeera America was just Al Jazeera, and all the meanings that came with that name. It was not an insurmountable hurdle. The network simply needed to align itself with a belief system that existed in the market (and was unclaimed) to become more important to the viewing public.

It never found it. So, Qatar had no choice but to close the network down with oil prices falling and cable companies either refusing to air Al Jazeera America (Comcast and DirecTV) or charging high fees.

A brand that meant something other than a belief that it was aligned with Islam would have saved the day.