• 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.

The Tom Dougherty Blog

The Mixify campaign seems disingenuous

During Game 6 of the World Series last night, I saw for the first time the ad for a new initiative by Pepsi, Coke, Dr. Pepper and the American Beverage Association called Mixify. Mixify is a initiative that, well, let them tell you:

“#Realtalk: Coke, Dr. Pepper and Pepsi understand that balancing your mix of foods, drinks and physical activities can get a little tricky. And since our products can play a part in that equation, we’ve teamed up to help make it easier to find a balanced mix that feels oh so right. That’s where Mixify comes in. It’s like a balance wingman. Bringing you new combinations to keep your mix fresh and your body right. Like mixing lazy days with something light, following sweaty workouts with whatever you’re craving, and crossing cats with dragons. Because at the end of the day, finding balance keeps you feeling snazzier than the emoji of the dancing lady in red.”

In truth, the soda brands want you to buy more of these.
In truth, the soda brands want you to buy more of these.

Thank goodness I am going to finally have a “balance wingman.” Seriously? I’ll have whatever the Mixify brain trust had when they thought up this thing. If we were flies on the wall in their marketing meetings, we would hear them saying, “How do we sell more Coke, Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper?” I don’t believe for a minute that any of these companies really want people to not drink their beverages as much and I am quite positive most of their stockholders don’t either.

Unlike the great tobacco settlement in 1998, where tobacco companies were required to contribute to anti-smoking ads, Mixify is a volunteer effort. The campaign does not tell people that they should stay away from soft drinks because they could make you fat or give you diabetes.

Instead, the soda brands want to convince viewers to only drink them after they have worked out or when they are “crossing cats with dragons.” The whole idea is so contrived and is entirely disingenuous. Even taken as it is, it is the worst kind of a very thinly veiled PR stunt.


Rotten Tomatoes is certified fresh in my book

Many times when I write a blog, I think about the brands that have become mainstays in my life — so much so that they are easy to overlook. These brands are those that I trust implicitly.

Saving myself from getting too heady about the psychology of brands, I’ll cut to the chase. Last night, in an epiphanic moment, I realized that Rotten Tomatoes has become one of those brands for me.

I like to consider myself a bit of a film snob. I love the classics, especially David Lean’s catalog. But Rotten Tomatoes is one siphon I wield when deciding whether or not a new flick is going to be worth my time and money.

A trusted source for me
A trusted source for me

Any time I feel that a film preview looks exciting, I look to its coterie of reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. I want to know if the film is fresh: that is, any film earning a consensus rating of 60% of better by film critics. Personally, I want to see anything in the 80% approval rating or higher (I do have my standards.) Anything below 60% is considered a “rotten tomato.” Based on this scale, I don’t waste my time on any film that’s rotten.

Yet, the story here isn’t about the Rotten Tomato rating scale (though that is one facet that has caused trust the site), rather, it’s how it has carved a niche in my life. It’s about how I rely on the site completely to do a particular job, and it meets my expectations without fail. The consistency to which it has come through for me makes it a mainstay in my life.

Great brands become an extension of who you believe you are. I believe I am someone with discerning taste. Rotten Tomatoes is indeed one of those brands for me.


Dunkin’ Donuts needs a rebrand

The latest growth opportunity for fast food restaurants is breakfast, which has largely been dominated by those who feature breakfast or a giant like McDonalds.

In recent years, we’ve seen Hardee’s advertise breakfast almost exclusively while Taco Bell has entered the fray. The interesting thing is that those who seem most able to swiftly move into that position are the morning coffee houses, such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Starbucks is having a strong year, but Dunkin’ Donuts recently told Wall Street that it won’t be meeting expectations. That’s mostly because it hasn’t increased market share in the breakfast segment even with new menu offerings.

What gives? My sense is that Dunkin’ Donuts is too associated with the fatting food in its name. Donuts. It’s the same reason why Burger King has never been a huge breakfast player, at least compared to McDonalds.

The brand of Dunkin' Donuts isn't a sausage, egg and cheese croissant.
The brand of Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t a sausage, egg and cheese croissant.

This is about brand permission, the permission that consumers grant you to enter a new market because of what your brand means. In the case of Dunkin’ Donuts, its brand means two things: Donuts and coffee. Donuts is in its name while its theme line is “America Runs on Dunkin’,” which means coffee.

That’s a fine position that has served the chain well, but as it increases its breakfast reach – upping its total number of restaurants by more than 600 worldwide this year and adding menu items like breakfast sandwiches – Dunkin’ Donuts must consider a rebrand.

I’m not suggesting a name change (although it should be on the table if research suggests it is needed), but a new meaning.

If the reach is changing, than what Dunkin’ Donuts means must change as well. In theory, “America runs on Dunkin” could include breakfast sandwiches. Emotionally, however, it still screams coffee, the jolt to start your day.

Having some experience in this category, I think there is still great opportunity in it with the right brand meaning. For Dunkin, the challenge is to carry over any brand equity into an altered (and an increasingly competitive) market.

The chain needs a different approach.


Cinnamon Toast Crunch to try a different audience

Will adults come back to eating cereal?

Now this is interesting. As some of you might know, we posted an in-depth study of the breakfast cereal market and came away with several conclusions. One of which was that kids, the traditional target audience for these cereals, have better and more convenient choices so the market for those cereals is shrinking.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch, the fifth best-selling cereal in the US, is rolling out marketing to adults, not children, in the next few months. It’s an attempt for a kind of retro approach, complete with more cinnamon in the cereal, ads on adult programming (not the kids’ channels as before) and a social media campaign that includes bloggers for moms.

Is this cereal for you?
Is this cereal for you?

Now, I said it was interesting, but I’m not sure how effective it will become. General Mills, which owns Cinnamon Toast Crunch, says half of its current audience is made up of adults and it’s hoping those adults remember how much they enjoyed the cereal years ago.

Said Associate Marketing Manager Elizabeth Crocker to Marketing Daily: “Cinnamon Toast Crunch is not only a favorite among families, but also adults who grew in the ‘80s. We are seeing an uptick in interest from both millennial consumers who enjoy the taste and fun, as well as older customers who fondly remember it from their childhood.”

In the study, we said that cereals should promote the brand of cereal instead of touting its individual brands because the category had a serious hurdle to overcome: The belief that cold cereals are simply not healthy. It’s not a strategy we would usually recommend, but the cereal industry has been watching sales fall for a decade now and some plugging of the dike needs to take place.

Adding cinnamon, or rolling out a fruitier flavor for Trix or increasing the chocolate flavor in Cocoa Puffs (all of which General Mills has done) doesn’t seem like the right strategy to stop that flow. It sounds like the cereals will become even less healthy.

Targeting adults with nostalgia will be interesting, but execution will be key. (McCann is doing the upcoming ads.) If the ads look and sound like any other breakfast cereal campaign, it’ll fail miserably. Part of the problem cereals have had is that they all look and sound the same. They just look like a goop of cartoony, sugar-infested food that appeals to few. (Even kids have moved onto the on-the-go foods like Pop Tarts.)

My prediction is that this strategy will provide a brief uptick in sales, but will not work for the long term because it doesn’t address the real issues and may even be counterproductive to alleviating those issues.

But if done in an unapologetic manner (think, in tone, like Hardee’s in the fast food category), it has a chance. We’ll be watching.


Apple Pay is big news

Time to ditch your wallet.

It might be time to drop those wallets off at Goodwill.

Yesterday, Apple released a game-changing option to its Passbook application: Apple Pay.

If you are the owner of an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, the 8.1 update (which installed Apple Pay to iPhones) is the invitation to the future of buying goods and services.

The way you'll now pay the register.
The way you’ll now pay the register.

The process is pretty easy. All you need to do is add your credit cards to the Apple Pay system. All you need do then is hold your phone near a pay kiosk (it is read by a process called Near Field Communication), confirm payment by way of the touch sensor on your phone and payment is complete.

The process is quick and painless. Most of all, it’s safe. When you enter a credit card number, for example, “Apple replaces that number with a unique token that it stores encrypted in what the company calls its ‘secure element,’” says MacWorld. “Your information is never stored on your device or in the cloud.”

To me, this is huge. The United States alone accounts for nearly half of all of the world’s credit card fraud, and a quarter of credit card use. Apple Pay easily cuts out the concerns we might have (think of the Target fiasco last year, and most recently, one at Home Depot).

To date, more that 220,000 stores have adopted the pay method, including Walgreens, Nike and Whole Foods. You can use your Visa, MasterCard and American Express credit cards.

Not surprisingly, I’ve already added my credit cards to Apple Pay. I wouldn’t be surprised if you do the same soon, too.


The problem of the “bad” Rob Lowe

The DirecTV ads are close to being great, but there is a fundamental problem.

I’m sure most of you have seen the Rob Lowe DirecTV ads in which there is good Rob Lowe (a DirecTV customer) and bad Rob Lowe (a cable TV customer). In the series, the bad Rob Lowe is the actor playing a creep (who likes to watch swimmers and smell people’s hair), a lowlife (with rotting teeth and a comb over) or a nerd (who is afraid of people).

Meanwhile, the ever-cool Rob Lowe is the DirecTV customer who tells us not to be bad Rob Lowe. Be a DirecTV customer.

Is this a true choice?
Is this a true choice?

The ads are related to the great “I’m a PC” and “I’m a Mac” ads that Apple ran some years ago, among the greatest brand ads ever aired. Do the DirecTV spots stand up to that?

Not really. DirecTV took the basic concept of that but it missed the basic ingredient in those Apple ads and, instead, raised the level of absurdity so its argument isn’t very believable.

The genius of the Apple ads, other than the positioning of who you are when you are a Mac user, was that the personalities of the two fit the personalities of the brands. “I’m a Mac” was relaxed, a believer in simplicity with an easy confidence. “I’m a PC” was likable, but over-complicated and a little too eager. That is, they were believable types (as Apple users saw them) and had an unforced rapport. You could even choose to be the PC, but it just wasn’t preferable.

That was part of the campaign’s allure. You liked PC.

In the DirecTV spots, there’s nothing to suggest that the alternative (cable) is an actual choice. Bad Rob Lowe is simply disgusting, which doesn’t tap into any belief systems about cable TV companies (as much as we may despise them). Bad Rob Lowe becomes a cartoon character, so the promise of being Good Rob Lowe isn’t believable. It’s not persuasive enough and positioned against a ghost.

That’s not to say the campaign is a total wash. The idea behind it is right, and the ads are memorable, but the strategy took the concept too far to be truly effective. DirecTV didn’t make it a fair fight.

A nice try, but not good enough to create true preference.


Airlines: Hard to buy into a brand that abandons you

Oh United, why have your forsaken me?

This is by no means the first or the last time I have written about airlines. It’s just that they seem to be so bad at the most simple promise. Like appreciating our business.

I fly all the time because our client base is all over the globe. There might have been a time when this was something you bragged about. But certainly not any longer.

I remember when I thought traveling for business was a romantic idea. However, I assure you that my travel looks as much like Sean Connery’s 007 travel as I look like a debonair spy. Air travel today is as luxurious and glamorous as a city bus ride, but with much longer waits at the bus terminal.

Despite my complaints, I have a lot of miles under my belt and, as a result, United awarded me Global Services status the last few years. This is its highest level of recognition. According to United, this is only awarded to its most valuable customers. Global Services cannot be earned. It is awarded.

Being forsaken by an airline.
Being forsaken by an airline.

So what has happened to my trusted United Airlines? Well, the roof has collapsed on it. When US Airways left the Star Alliance (the frequent flyer program that includes United, Lufthansa, etc.), I lost most of the connecting flights out of my local North Carolina airport. In the past, I could book a flight on US Airways and United would credit me for flying on a Star Alliance partner.

So, when US Airways joined American Airlines a few months back, I lost a great deal of access. What would you do if you were United? Maybe add some flights to and from Greensboro to make up for that loss? Hardly.

United has three main hubs in the East: Newark, Washington Dulles and Chicago (even if it is technically a mid-western airport). I fly to Europe regularly and my closest United hub is Washington Dulles. I did not enjoy the long layover in DC for my flights to Europe, but I lived with it and appreciated the direct connecting flights with almost every destination in the world from Dulles.

Domestic flights were my only problem with US Air’s departure. I say “were” because suddenly international connections are a problem too. United has decided that I no longer need an early morning arrival in DC and has eliminated all but the late afternoon flights to Dulles. This means I can’t make ANY international connecting flights our of that hub.

I feel abandoned by United. I am going to have to find another airline to abuse me. Here is one Global Services flyer that United has pushed to the curb. I never really thought it appreciated my business. I knew “sit back, relax and enjoy your flights” was just meaningless jargon. Now I know United sneered at me when it said, “We know you have lots of choices and we appreciate your business.”


HBO announcement spells doom for cable and satellite

HBO to unleash a game-changer.

The revolution to rid ourselves of cable and satellite TV providers took a long-awaited step forward yesterday when HBO announced that it will offer its HBO GO-like app to those who are not subscribers to either cable or satellite.

If you don’t think this is a big deal, think about this. If all the TV content developers (like HBO) decide to skip the middlemen (cable, satellite) and go directly to viewers, cable and satellite TV is effectively finished.

For the HBOs of the world, this is a chance to ride the current wave of Internet viewing and collect revenue without paying fees to the cable and satellite companies. For viewers, it’s a chance to “cut the cord,” as so many have already done and gain the control of their viewing habits.

For the cable and satellite companies, it spells doom.

The content developers knew this was coming, already offering apps that show current shows and, in some cases (HBO), offer its entire library. But you had to be a subscriber to either cable or satellite to use it.

Coming to an iPad near you.
Coming to an iPad near you.

The argument from some content developers has been that going the entire Internet route would inhibit the ability for them to develop other channels or shows because many companies own more than one channel. Viacom, for example, owns MTV, Nickelodeon, TV Land, Comedy Central and many others. But CBS announced today that it will offer an all-access subscription service (although it won’t include its NFL package).

Therefore, I think even Viacom will eventually go the HBO route. If you’ve watched any programs on these kinds of apps (such as FXNOW), you see other shows on FX being advertised during breaks. The companies could do the same thing for new channels or make it a package deal.

I’ve noted this before, but the final move that will shut off the cable and satellite lights forever is live TV, especially sports. Of course, you can buy an HD receiver that gets you the local channels on which many sports are carried. However, if ESPN (or any of the other sports channels) goes the HBO route, it’s really over.

The sports leagues themselves could offer packages that go directly to consumers, and DirecTV and the NFL are running some pilot programs at universities with that strategy. But the NFL, for example, still needs someone to cover the game and that league in particular gets billions from its television contracts. So don’t expect that anytime immediately.

The day is coming when cable and satellite providers are no more, or nothing more than Internet providers. You do see them thinking ahead somewhat with DirecTV now developing its own TV shows.

But make no mistake. This move by HBO is a game-changer.