• 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

Lean Cuisine brand gets a makeover

If you’re like me, you eat lunch at your desk. For many of us (again, including me), that also means heating up a frozen meal in the microwave because it’s easy.

That’s why it was surprising to me to find that sales of frozen foods in general are dropping and that the leading diet brand, Lean Cuisine, is trying a new approach away from dieting.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 10.19.35 AMIn this first spot, a line is spoken by the narrator (a nurse), “I eat the way I want to eat,” that is an important message that signals an independence that can be attractive to target audiences.

It’s a shift for the Lean Cuisine brand because, as Lean Cuisine Brand Manager Chris Flora said, “We recognize that diets are dead and we want to show that we are truly shifting away from diet.”

Diets may be dead, as Flora puts it, and it’s been replaced by fresh. Some many not associate fresh with frozen foods, although a $30 million campaign by many of the frozen food producers are telling us that frozen is “nature’s pause button.”

The Lean Cuisine brand hasn’t gone far enough.

This is an issue for frozen food producers and Lean Cuisine has recognized that it needs a brand shift. The problem is that Lean Cuisine hasn’t gone all the way. Packaging is new for the brand and the foods it makes will have an overhaul.

But the Lean Cuisine brand, which is owned by Nestle, hasn’t answered the question of what it stands for. Who is the Lean Cuisine eater today? The Lean Cuisine eater was once the one wanting to lose weight. Now?

The “eat the way I want to eat” is smart, but it becomes easily forgettable in how it’s used. It’s not prominent enough, which speaks to the problem with most brand advertising.

Instead, the campaign’s headline is “Feed Your Phenomenal,” which sounds like it was written by Madison Avenue and, therefore, is not believed. “Eat the way I want to eat” is in spoken language and taps into a true emotional value. “Feed Your Phenomenal” is just adspeak.

There’s the other issue, of course. The Lean Cuisine name. As much as Lean Cuisine would like to get away from diet, the name suggests as much. If Lean Cuisine really wants to stem its dropping sales (its sales have dropped 20% in the last two years), its name needs to be different.

Lean Cuisine was correct in making changes (I once ate a lot of Lean Cuisine but got tired of its blandness), but it and its advertising agency, Grey, need to go a few steps farther.

To win, Lean Cuisine needs a new brand. And it needs to stop with the trite “Feed Your Phenomenal.”


Political Correctness in Marketing

Political Correctness does not belong in branding

Last weekend, Bill Maher mentioned that he, Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock no longer do standup comedy on college campuses. The reason? Apparently you cannot be a great comic in the shadow of overarching and ponderous political correctness. Bill said that it is the truth in stereotypes that allow us to recognize the irony in the joke. Don’t believe me? Try spending 20 minutes at a party with an insurance salesman.

Companies hire Stealing Share because they are committed to moving the marketing needle. We always tell them that they can expect a few black eyes when we are hired because our first job is to slay the sacred cows. We strive to tell the truth and that often involves an agreement that what is politically incorrect might just be the Holy Grail in a brand strategy. Great brands embrace what is and that may come at the expense of what should be.

The price of clarity is the risk of offense

Pope Francis and Political Correctness
No one can accuse Pope Francis of being mean spirited or uncaring. But you cannot accuse him of political correctness either. Click here to read a blog about the Pope

So know this: The price of clarity is the risk of offense. Don’t waste your advertising or marketing dollars on banal instruments. If you want someone to notice your brand, consider switching and change loyalties, there is just no time for political correctness. You need to be viewed as legitimate, real, important and memorable. These are the exact opposite of political correctness. They are the requisites of clarity.

If clarity in marketing is chocolate then political correctness is vanilla. It is slightly appealing to everyone but no one loses sleep when they can’t get it.

Political CorrectnessWe all recognize political correctness in branding and marketing. The commercials are peopled with just the right ethnic mix to mirror the population. They are gender neutral and avoid any language that can upset the apple cart. The problem is you need to upset the apple cart if you want to steal market share.

At some point, every successful brand needs to recognize that its brand is not for everyone. It is for some, but not all.

Branding is about ownership. The ownership of belief, values, precepts and importance. How do you know what is important? By speaking in clear terms that underscore the faintest of truths. You can’t own vanilla but you can own Cherry Garcia.


The Apple Music advantage

Apple will be launching Apple Music at the end of the month, entering an already crowded market with Google Play Music launching an ad-supported free version yesterday as well.

You likely remember that, about a year ago, Apple paid $3 billion for Beats in a deal that was supposed to be a marriage of music super powers. But some are wondering if Apple is too late to the music streaming party.

The largest advantage of Apple Music.
The largest advantage of Apple Music.

If you have read this blog for anytime, you know that I tend to be somewhat of an Apple fan boy. I try to be objective. From a brand perspective, however, I really have bought into Apple’s brand.

Two tenants of Apple’s brand are innovation and simplicity, and Apple has always innovated by making things simpler. This is where I see Apple Music being able to outpace rivals like Spotify and Google Play Music (and certainly Tidal).

How Apple Music fulfills Apple’s brand promise.

For most Apple users, any music they have purchased either on their computers, iPads or iPhones has been done through iTunes. iTunes already does a pretty good job in combining streaming radio with a user’s local library. Adding a streaming service may blurs that line to some, but a user does not need a separate application (simplicity).

Starting with the original version of iTunes and the iTunes Store, Apple has consistently innovated to make them more integrated, easy to use, and feature rich. Apple’s streaming service marks another innovation to an already solid platform.

Apple has sold more than a billion iOS devices. It has created a market for its music service and offers the unique advantage of a family plan with six devices for $15. Spotify currently gives a discount of 50% per devices so six would cost about $35. Further, Apple will be giving users free three-month trials. Unless there are some real problems with the service, once users see how easy and integrated it is, why would anyone go back to Spotify, or any other streaming service?

So is Apple late to the streaming music party? Absolutely, but it’s not because it couldn’t do it before. It’s because Apple wanted to do it right.


Confederate Battle Flag

A reasonable view of the Confederate Battle Flag

I am a history hound and have a special love and interest in the Civil War. The controversy over the South Carolina use of the Confederate Battle flag is of special interest to me. Born and raised in New Jersey, I had a Great Great Great Grandfather that fought for the Union. Peter S. Dougherty and his brother Pryor joined the Union Army with Company B, 23rd Infantry Regiment New Jersey on 13 September 1862 in Bordentown, NJ. Peter fought at Fredericksburg and his regiment stormed Marye’s Heights against Longstreet’s corps.

fredvalor_in_grayMarye’s Heights was a bloody and hopeless conflict at Fredericksburg. Porter Alexander (later a Brigadier General for the Confederacy) was famous for saying “a chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.” He was right. Longstreet’s corp was nestled behind a stone wall at the top of a gently rising slope. No Union soldier got closer than 50 yards.

I mention this because, despite my Yankee heritage, I have always had Confederate leanings. As a small child, my heroes were Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. This was well before I had any understanding of the reasons behind the war.

Today, I am certainly glad the Union won that war.

I am glad the war was won by the Union army and that the fight was against slavery. Lincoln elevated the raison d’être for the war on January 1 1863. We are well to remember that, up until that date, Lincoln was willing to ensure the institution of slavery for unification after his election.

Confederate Battle FlagEven to this day, I admire General Lee for his integrity, leadership, demeanor and savvy. Those that know me can easily understand my affinity for the underdog. My business at Stealing Share is all about helping underdogs in a market steal share from the market leader.

So how do I feel about the Confederate Battle Flag that flies in South Carolina? Take it down and put it away in a museum or an historical reenactment. For me, it takes away from the historical battle flag as a historical symbol of a culture long gone. By trying to contemporize the symbol into something that reeks of racism. We can thank the Southern segregationists and the KKK for the rancor. In the 50s and 60s there is no defense of the racism that the flag now represents. It’s just wrong to fly it today.

However, the Confederate Battle Flag belongs in museums and it belongs in the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University because in those places it is about history. (I wrote a blog chastising the University for removing the Battle Flags from the Lee Chapel. You can read it here)

Confederate Battle FlagNo one should be offended by their state. A pickup truck riding down the road with a Confederate battle flag bumper sticker is not telling the world that they are history buffs. We all know what it means (a redneck racist) and it is offensive to my sensibilities and our national precepts.

There is a time and place for everything and states that cling to the Confederate Battle flag are out of time and in the wrong place.

I will still tingle with historical excitement when I see the battle flag proudly displayed at Civil War Reenactments. At these events, the historic flag is about the lost cause and the men that fought and died for something they believed in. They believed in their home states.


Confederate Flag at Washington and Lee

Was the Confederate Flag(s) that adorned the Lee Chapel as offensive as the South Carolina Flag?

Confederate FlagWith all the turmoil over the Confederate Flag in South Carolina (which I make an argument for its removal) I think it is important to look at what happened recently at Washington and Lee University. Here political correctness stripped the General’s Memorial of his Army’s flags in the banal service of political correctness.

What is the brand of Washington and Lee University? Does it have anything to do with the Confederate Flag?

Lee Chapel and the Confederate FlagThis is a tough call. Is it history or racism? I do not know how a University that is named after General Robert E Lee can walk away from his battle flag. I realize that symbols carry great power and can excite great emotions. To my thinking, the lee Chapel is a museum of sorts. A place where the General’s remains lie so it should come to no one’s surprise that a few of the battle flags surround his memorial.

Here we were faced with a choice — Should the university try to downplay the history of its roots or the deep feelings of its current students? I believe that there are two valid sides to this argument, but history has been written.

The University was misguided

If the University needs to distance themselves from Robert. E Lee then they should consider removing his name from the school itself and not just the Confederate Flag. His name was, after all, added after the Confederate General’s death to what was then Washington College. It is a slippery slope here. George Washington held slaves too.

Lee recumbent in the battle field surrounded by the Confederate FlagSadly, from my point of view the University bowed to the pressure of its politically correct students and decided to remove the Confederate flag. This is a tragedy in my mind. Not just for historians but for the University itself. Washington and Lee has no idea what its brand is all about.

If you are interested in what the fuss was all about, take a look. What you see in the Lee Chapel is a statue of Lee recalling in the battlefield (no it is not a statue of Lee after death) designed by Edward Valentine. On each side you will see a few of the Confederate Battle Flags.

Lee Chapel and the Confederate FlagDirectly below this recumbent statue, in a crypt, General lee is buried along with his wife Mary Anna Randolph Custis (great-granddaughter of Martha Washington) and his father Light Horse Harry Lee, his mother and Lee’s seven children. Traveler, his famous horse was reentered and buried outside the entrance to the General’s office.

It is not as if the Chapel was festooned with flags or sat atop a seat of government (like the South Carolina Capitol). This is a solemn place and a memorial to an American (lee was granted his citizenship by President Gerald Ford in 1975. It is worth a read here to understand the circumstances of his amnesty. 


Share a Coke has become trite

For most of my life I have enjoyed Coke over Pepsi.

I always found something so refreshing about cracking open a fresh red can and pouring its contents over ice. It had a sweet, indulgent taste that Pepsi just never had, in my opinion.

OK, I'm done with Share a Coke.
OK, I’m done with Share a Coke.

Coke, to me, always had the greater product – the taste was better. Or at least, that’s what I’ve always thought. (More on this later.)

But then something stepped in the way of my favorite carbonated beverage: an increasingly stupid campaign on its can called, “Share a Coke.”

Names on Coke bottles were once clever.

If you’re not familiar with the “Share a Coke” campaign, it began with the folks at Coca-Cola printing personal names on the labels of coke bottles and cans. This drummed up some interest on social media outlets where people would post pictures with themselves and a Coca-Cola bottle that sported their name.

It was a bright concept because, unlike other soda campaigns, it was about the soda drinker, not the drink. Plus, you could order bottles from Coke with specific names on them. Consequently, many analysts deemed “Share a Coke” campaign a success.

Coke is now overdoing “Share a Coke.”

It’s an uncomfortable thing to witness someone trying too hard to be hip. That’s kind of how I feel with Coke’s newest incarnation of “Share a Coke.”

Just yesterday, I was drinking a can of Coke Zero while hanging with my daughter. About halfway through my can, she looked at me and began laughing, then said: “Sup Bro.”

“Sup Bro?” I was confused.

“Bro. It’s written on the can, Dad!”

I took a look at the other cans in the fridge that had other idiocies printed on them: adventurer, sidekick and better half, and immediately rolled my eyes.

How stupid.

I suppose all the bros in the world are going to seek out these cans and take selfies with them for Instagram.

Coke’s brand is in trouble. With the latest update of “Share a Coke,” especially, Coke has displayed that it no longer gets why people like myself drink it: because of what the brand of Coke means.

(Sidenote: Pepsi often wins in blind taste tests. But Coke wins when drinkers are not blind. It’s the Coke brand that makes us think it tastes better.)

I can assure you that it isn’t because of some inane pronoun printed on a can.


Taylor Swift Apple come to terms

In the charmed (and, let’s be honest, talented) world of Taylor Swift, the young pop/country star scored another victory over the weekend. She actually made the world’s most successful brand step down.

Apple will be launching Apple Music at the end of this month, offering customers a free three-month trial. However, to the artists, it was just a little too free. Turns out, none of the artists would have had their royalties paid during that free trail, so Swift turned to Tumblr and posted a blog saying that her newest album would not be available during the trial.

Victory is hers.
Victory is hers.

Apple immediately responded on Twitter, saying “#AppleMusic will pay artists for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period. We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.”

In some ways, it was a no-brainer on Apple’s part as not paying artists for their work is potentially unlawful and certainly an affront to the artists who make up the content for Apple Music.

But the Taylor Swift Apple situation does bring up a balancing act all streaming services must manage. You must pay artists, but not so much to make the streaming service unaffordable to customers.

Look at what happened with Tidal.

That’s why Jay Z’s Tidal service has fallen on the deaf ears of listeners. It charges $20 a month, twice what it costs to stream music on Spotify. Apple Music will also be $10 a month (with a $15 option for a family of six).

The launch of Tidal was a bust because it was inadvertently marketed as a cash grab for the artists involved. At the launch event, all Jay Z and the other artists in attendance talked about was how this was fair to artists, nothing about the listeners it was targeting.

It was inside-out thinking that has left the service with less than 1 million subscribers, compared to Spotify’s 15 million. (Even Deezer and Rhapsody have more subscribers than Tidal.)

The Taylor Swift Apple situation is different, of course, as artists should definitely be paid. But it is this kind of situation that has investors nervous when it comes to streaming services. Netflix is beholden to what licensing fees it must pay for its content while keeping the cost of subscriptions down. That is the reason why Netflix and other streaming services like Amazon Prime are producing their own content. Despite the budgets, they can be more profitable for the services in attracting new customers than licensing other content.

Taylor Swift won a victory here, and it was well deserved. But it won’t be the last time we see a service and the content providers battle over how to make the streaming models work.


Pope Francis on Climate Change

Should Pope Francis speak out about climate change?

Pope FrancisThe Pope’s brand is all about concern and empathy. As such, he has an obligation to write encyclicals about his concerns on Catholic issues and he obviously believes that climate change is a moral issue. I think he is right.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks out about these more secular issues on a weekly basis and no one but the Chinese seem to be upset with it. Why the double standard?

I think it is because no one running for the Presidency of the US is a Buddhist. But more than a couple are Catholics. It causes those observant Catholics quite a conundrum when they forcefully debate the abortion issue and cite their Catholic faith as the foundation of that dissent. But can they cherry pick the parts of Catholicism that they like or do they place their faith firmly in the Church and the Vicar of Christ who speaks for it?

Rick Santorum vs Pope FrancisPope Francis and Politics.

I found Rick Santorum‘s response the most amusing of all from a logical standpoint. He is a candidate that revels in his conservative Catholic roots, speaks about family values and generally incorporates his faith in the Church whenever he can. Well, Rick says that the “Pope should stick to moral issues and leave science to the scientists.” Sounds good on the surface but I can’t help but recognize that the doubters of climate change seem to be ignoring science and probably should stick to politics where truth never seems to matter.

It may not be something we want to face, but our climate and weather is most certainly in flux. If you don’t believe that human beings are responsible for it, you are just ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus. Even if you don’t buy humanity as a cause, why would you be against trying to do everything within our power to slow it down? Would you not want NASA to try to do something about an asteroid headed our way? Obviously, our human activities had nothing to do with the asteroids path but most of us would like it to be, at the very least, a near miss.

So speak on Pope Francis! Help us take the politics out of science. We will all be better off.