• 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

Podcasts are back

It’s a funny thing to see how trends come in and out of style.

You can see it in fashion: the ’80s, for instance, has found its way into our psyche again. Past musical stylings have graced us again as well: from new psychedelia to new wave and post punk.

Maybe we are seeking a to return to a picturesque time or an escape from a world where technological developments have run amuck. Whatever the case may be, nostalgia has come upon us with a fervor.

We're listening to podcasts like never before.
We’re listening to podcasts like never before.

It’s not surprising then that the podcast has come back to our hearts too. With this resurgence, the podcast is more powerful than ever and it offers some of the most addicting media content at present.

Audio podcasts on great stories alone.

My foray into the present world of podcasts came by way of the audio podcast, Serial, a gripping expose on the trial (or possible mistrial) of Adnan Syed. In case you are unfamiliar with the story, Syed was sentenced for the murder of his high school girlfriend, a crime for which he proclaims his innocence. The story weaves in and out of perspectives, and leaves the listener questioning whether or not Syed was wrongfully accused and convicted.

This lead to my discovery of other equally great podcasts like The Mystery Show, Radiolab, Criminal and a new trend setter in You Must Remember This, which took a look at the Hollywood scene during the time of the Manson murders.

Needless to say, I am a podcast junkie now.

What’s the cause for the Podcast comeback?

As New York Magazine said, there are three reasons for the comeback of podcasts: the content is better, they are cheaper and easier to produce than video.

But the biggest suggestion is that our automobiles are technologically wired to bring audio content to the commuter.

I think about my own commute each day, a 25-minute ride to and from the office. It’s there that I spend my time listening to podcasts. Podcasts have solved a problem: they provide us with rich content at a time when we could use it most, in our car.

Podcasts have found a unique position in the marketplace, filling a need that makes my drive just that much more pleasurable.


What’s in a name: Denali

On the eve of President Obama’s visit to Alaska, it was announced that Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, will revert to Denali, its original Inuit name.

I never gave it much thought, but one of our strategists, Michael Van Ausdeln, lived in Alaska for more than a decade and he has a few thoughts about the name change:

The Great One.
The Great One.

To me, this has been a long time coming. Alaskans have long called the mountain Denali. It’s situated in Denali National Park and the word, denali, means “The Great One.” (Not be confused with the nickname of NHL great Wayne Gretzky.)

If you’ve ever seen the mountain, then you know it’s taller than you originally thought. When I first saw it, I thought it was one of the smaller mountains in the park. Then someone pointed to a peak that was ABOVE the clouds, and there stood The Great One.

The importance of Denali to Alaska.

What is interesting to me is that, while changing the name probably means little to those of us who live in the Lower 48, calling it Denali was a stubborn point of pride for many Alaskans. Up there, there is a kind of satisfaction in believing that the rest of the US is not really authentic. That they don’t get Alaska, an enormous state of lakes, rivers and mountains that can test even the hardiest of us.

In a way, by calling the mountain Denali, Alaskans were re-affirming their self-reflecting brand that said we were more authentic than those peons who called it Mount McKinley. I mean, who even remembers what William McKinley actually accomplished? The power of Denali proves the power of naming.

I can hear my Alaskan friends now: “Oh, big deal. We’ve been calling it Denali for years.” Just by saying that, Alaskans (and former Alaskans like myself) are stating who we believe we are when we lived there.

Authentic.


The Virginia shooting and technology

Today, we mourn the tragic and senseless loss of TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward, an event so shocking that I think we are now through the looking glass when it comes to violence and technology in this country.

The Virginia shooting is heartbreaking for a whole host of reasons and it took our collective breath away even amid a seemingly weekly occurrence of national grieving over shooting deaths.

Virginia shootingBut this one feels different, and the reason is chilling. It was captured live on TV and the killer recorded it, then posted it on Facebook and Twitter.

We are now in a different era in which that kind of violence is no longer hidden. It is visceral and immediate. There is now no distance between us and the events as they happen.

Our conflicted relationship with technology.

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with our technology. We love it for the access it brings us and I do believe it has transformed our lives for the better.

On the other hand, it has lifted the lid of privacy clean off, leaving some of us feeling exposed. Many of us believe we are being unwittingly tracked by governments and corporations, and that our most personal information is available for anyone to see. (Think Ashley Madison.)

As the comedian Louis CK has said a few years ago, everything is amazing but no one is happy.

Now we’ve entered a more terrifying realm. If we thought being able to see beheading videos from ISIS was horrifying, we now enter the possibility that horrible acts will be shared via social media in real time. As much as I loathe to say it, there will be an unfathomable act being broadcast live by the assailant because that assailant has unfettered access to us and the world at large.

I am a technology freak, but the Virginia shootings and the videos that arose from it have given me pause. There is a video out there that I have no interest in seeing but was made available to the public minutes after the murders themselves.

The looking glass now reveals all.


Fantastic Four is just plain awful

I’m not one to mince my words. Ever. When it comes to the most heated of conversations, I’ll have an opinion, even if others might not want to hear it.

Now, I get it, I am a bit of a curmudgeon by nature, but that is a necessity of being successful in my business. Branding requires brutal honesty in the face of adversity.

This being said, here is a healthy dose of realism:

Just about every superhero film I’ve seen is an embarrassing testament to our modern times.

Granted, I’ve honed in on this topic in the past, but with the release of the abysmal  Fantastic Four, I felt I had an opportunity to add to my diatribe.

I was an idiot to go see this film.
I was an idiot to go see this film.

If you have been following the media outlets about Fantastic Four, you know there is a big blame game happening. The director, Josh Trank, doesn’t want to take ownership of the film (this is an edited version he was not happy with) while the 20th Century Fox is dropping hints that the mistake was in letting him direct it to begin with.

While the director and studio battle might be a problematic issue, the bigger problem is our role in all of this.

We have allowed these films to be made. 

For every moderately decent superhero movie that’s been released, there seems to be five train wrecks. None of the Fantastic Four films has ever been good. Honestly, it’s about a rock man and his three weirdo friends. I don’t need any kind of scientific backstory to help me connect with them.

We’ve given bad (and some good) versions of flying men with capes, men who dress as bats and talk like the Randy Savage, dudes in spandex that shoot webs from their wrists, and angry green men in purple pants way too much of our attention.

My hope is that Fantastic Four is an omen for studios, directors and screenwriters. But most of all, I hope Fantastic Four is an omen for audiences because the studios will keep making superhero movies as long as we keep going to them.

They make money. (Well, not FF.)

Every weekend, I try to spend time with my grandchildren. They are the greatest wonder I could have asked for in my growing age. In them, I can see how quickly time speeds by and how I have wasted a lot of it. My own children have grown so fast and I am now as I remembered my parents to be.

When time is as precious as it is, wouldn’t it be best spent endorsing those things that are most worthy of it?

I think so.

So here is my promise: Superhero cinema, you will no longer be getting any of my time.

Will you join me?


Belicheck will start Brady, regardless

FOXBORO, MA (August 21, 2015) – This just in. New England head coach Bill Belichick will start Brady in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, regardless of the outcome of the current court case pending in New York City.

Brady will be under center even if Tom Brady is still required by the court to serve his four-game suspension, punishments be damned.

He's a crafty one.
He’s a crafty one.

Belichick signed Brady Quinn today, meaning the one-time Notre Dame star and current NFL Network analyst will be a New England Patriot and flaunt the ruling of Roger Goodell by wearing Brady on the back of his jersey and wear the number 12 in the season opener.

The move comes on the heels of statements by New England owner Robert Kraft who said he was “wrong to put my faith” in the NFL, so Belichick is taking it one step further.

Belichick said he is determined to have a Brady on the field when the NFL starts the 50th season of the Super Bowl era on September 10.

Said Belichick: “We always stick to our plans, which is that Brady is our starter. All we ask him to do is to do his job.”

Asked one reporter, “Hasn’t all this gotten out of hand?”

Belichick responded: “We’re on to Pittsburgh. Next question.”

Further Brady plans.

It seems that starting Brady is only part of the plan. The Patriots are changing the name of its stadium, currently called Gillette Stadium, to Brady Companies Stadium, named after the local heating and air conditioning company in Lowell, Massachusetts.

In addition, the national anthem at the season opener will be sung by Irish folk singer Paul Brady, with the remaining cast of The Brady Bunch being made honorary captains for the opening coin flip.

It was also rumored at press time that former New Orleans defensive end Brady Smith would come out of retirement and sign with the Patriots. Stealing Share has not been able to confirm this report.

The NFL has refused comment.


The scandals of Jared Fogle and Ashley Madison

There are two brands in the news today and I can only imagine one of them coming out relatively unscathed. Former Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle pled guilty to child pornography charges, while the website Ashley Madison was hacked, leading to a public outing of users who signed with up with the adultery website.

Turns out they can't keep a secret.
Turns out they can’t keep a secret.

I use the word “relatively” above because I believe both brands are hurt by what happened, just by different degrees. The more direct and potentially crushing blow was suffered by Ashely Madison because its brand is all about secrecy. That was the only reason why it existed. Affairs happen all the time, but Ashley Madison promised anonymity and an iron wall that would keep your secret safe.

Not anymore. The hackers released the emails of more than 33 million users, including many in the military and government. (A radio station in Australia told a woman on air that her husband had signed up.) That’s embarrassing and a backbreaker for the Ashley Madison brand.

What Jared Fogle means to Subway.

The Subway Jared Fogle situation actually interests me more. I do not think that Subway is in any danger of becoming extinct and, in fact, will still survive successfully. But Subway, which has the most fast food locations in the nation, even more than McDonald’s, is not exactly raking in the bucks like it used to collect.

Sales are falling and there are several reasons for it. Subway has owned the fast casual sector that’s less about getting something fast through the drive-thru and more about coming into the store and eating quickly. But competition is increasing as newcomers like Chipotle take market share.

Jared FogleThe brand of Subway has also been kinda lazy. While its “Eat Fresh” position is fine and all, it’s all about the product and “fresh” has become a tired cliché in the industry.

For a brand to succeed, it must be an emotional reflection of those when they use the brand. That’s how brands become preferred. For Subway, those emotional reflections have rested on the reputations of its celebrity spokespeople – and that can become a problem. When you are associated with a real person, any scandal reflects on you.

The Fogle scandal doesn’t directly impact Subway because the chain reacted quickly to it, releasing him from his contract as soon as he was charged. But it spoke to a larger problem for Subway in that it is very reliant on those celebrities. It often trots out athletes, such as NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III, but athletes are generally short-term faces of a brand unless that athlete is transcendent. (Griffin is not.)

Even if the athlete or celebrity is transcendent, it’s a dangerous game to play. You are depending on a personality to sell your brand, not the brand itself.

As competition continues to invade Subway’s space, the more it needs to make the brand, not the celebrity, the important reason to choose. Otherwise, another scandal may eventually doom it to irrelevancy.

Just don’t make your brand about something in which you will fail, like Ashley Madison. Make it about your customer.

 


Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is real

It’s that time of year again.

The time when everywhere you look, the artificially concocted blend of pumpkin spice has been added to everything you eat and drink.

The pumpkin spice is real.
The pumpkin spice is real.

The pile of goods sold with the fake melange of pumpkin spice is absurd. That’s why when I read Starbucks was going all in with a natural pumpkin spice, I took notice.

Natural ingredients are emerging in the QSR industry. 

A latte with real pumpkin in it. What on Earth they think up next?

All snark aside, the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is, in actuality, a part of a radical trend occurring in the Quick Service Restaurant industry; a topic we’ve spent much time deliberating on at Stealing Share.

This simple switch by Starbucks is an acknowledgment of the public’s desire to eat healthier food. It’s why Panera has recently trashed 150 artificial ingredients from it’s menu.

It’s also why chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell are trying their best to come up with alternatives to the antibiotic laden foods that have riddled each menu. But that’s not working to so well either.

And so Starbucks too has joined the fresh food club.

Starbucks should fix all artificial ingredients, not just one at a time. 

My hope is that Starbucks quickly sees the benefit in having natural pumpkin spice in its lattes, and opts to fix the entire menu quickly.

In my eyes, an establishment like Starbucks should recognize that it is already seen as a place that offers you the freshest and best ingredients. It does not have permission to be a McDonalds, Burger King or Taco Bell.

By doing so, rather than snipping the dog’s tail an inch of the time, the public won’t feel like they’ve been duped with artificial ingredients and flavors.


The Amazon corporate culture

As a business owner (and someone who has worked in the corporate world for more than 30 years), I found The New York Times story on the Amazon corporate culture to be appalling.

Supported by interviews with more than 100 current and former employees, NYT found a culture that encourages employees to backbite their peers, toil long hours, rarely take vacations and avoid any personal complications. The story outlined examples of employees who were docked performance ratings because they missed time to treat cancer and a company-wide rating list of employees was instituted to fire the bottom ones on the list.

 

Guess you don't want to work here.
Guess you don’t want to work here.

To me, that doesn’t sound like a company that fosters innovation, growth and team building. (That’s especially true when you compare that culture to what takes place at other tech companies, such as Google and Facebook.)

 

The true effect of the Amazon NYT story.

But, as a brand guy, I can’t see this having much impact on Amazon’s effectiveness in its market. Truth be told, consumers don’t care.

I say that even though the NYT piece is currently trending on social media and mainstream media outlets are reporting on it, with the Amazon story being one of the lead stories on The Today Show this morning. (Following an interview with Donald Trump, of course.)

But we’ve seen something like this before. While it wasn’t about the demands of its corporate culture, Walmart has been known for barely paying employees a livable wage, and the fast food industry has that same reputation. Many of the employees at Walmart and in the fast food industry are paid so little they are living below the poverty level.

While the fast food industry’s sales are slipping, that’s because of a shift in the eating habits of consumers. It’s not because of a form of protest.

And Walmart continues to be the giant amid the Lilliputians of the rest of the retail industry. It accounts for more than 2% of the gross national product in the US and far outsells the competition.

No, the blowback on Amazon will only come in the form of recruiting and retaining employees, which will have its own long-term ramifications to be sure. It will not affect its bottom line right now because it has a brand to protect itself.

We’ve seen this issue before. And, if you have a brand that is coveted by the marketplace, then the marketplace will sadly shrug and keep on buying.