• 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

McCafe brand is still McDonalds


In the latest move that demonstrates has lost its mind, McDonalds is going to overhaul its McCafe brand.

McDonalds wants to be Starbucks

The reason, according to Bloomberg is that this will better position McDonalds against Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Are you kidding me?

In fairness, McDonalds coffee isn’t all that bad. A lot of people would seem to agree with me too. It generates about $4 billion a year.

It pisses me off that McDonald’s is putting the cart way in front of the horse. Like next county over in front. People aren’t coming to McDonalds because of bad coffee. They aren’t coming to McDonalds because of the McDonalds brand.

Let me put this in a perspective. As part of this plan, McDonald’s plans to buy new espresso machines at $12,000 a piece. McDonald’s has about 14,000 stores in the US. So they are going to spend roughly $168 million on espresso machines. And that’s just the price of the machines.

McDonalds McCafeIts the brand, stupid – Not McCafe.

But with that $168 million it does fix the underlying problem. People are not coming to McDonalds.

Is a $12,000 espresso machine and $2 specialty coffee enough to convert a Starbucks customer? Maybe if a Starbucks customer was only buying coffee. But Starbucks customers buy more than coffee, they buy the Starbucks brand.

This is what McDonalds can’t get through their collective thick heads. McCafe, as dressed up as McDonald’s wants to make it is still McDonalds. Its lipstick on a pig.

Its the brand, stupid

Getting people come to the McCafe requires them to embrace the McDonald’s brand. If the parent brand is cause for prospects to turn up their nose, better steamed milk isn’t going to bring them in.

McDonald’s, I don’t know why you don’t see it. You have a fundamental problem with your brand. I don’t really even know what it means anymore. But I do know it does not mean coffeehouse coffee.

$168+ Million is a lot to spend on fixing the wrong problem.



Amazon Prime TV Spot is the Wrong Message

The Amazon Prime TV spot leaves me cold

Call me obtuse Amazon Prime TV.

Amazon Prime TVOr call me heartless, if you must.

Frankly, call me whatever name you want. I don’t much care. I’ll take the heat.

But, I have a major problem when the creative team behind a TV spot attempts to pull on your heart strings (or yank on them, as the subject of this article has), yet whiffs with its underlying message.

Here’s the gist of what I mean.

A few weeks back, I saw what first felt like a really “cute” advertisement for Amazon Prime called “First Day of School.”

Just like you, I bet, I was first enamored by the ridiculous level of cuteness of the little boy in the spot. Thought, “Damn, my kids were that cute, right?” I crumbled like a leaf when the kid had his superman costume on. Honestly, the adorable level was through the roof. I got it. Amazon Prime. Memorable cute kid. Not sure about the theme of the spot but I was willing to leave well enough alone.

A day later, I saw the spot again. I wasn’t as warm and fuzzy this time.

Watch the Amazon Prime TV Ad

Assuming you have taken the time to view the commercial; let’s take a moment to consider the doofus of a dad. I get it, day one, you’re going to peer through the pre-school window to check up on your kid. My wife and I did. I know the feeling.

Amazon Prime TV
A sappy not not a super Dad

And sure, it makes you sad that the class doesn’t flock to him (why doesn’t the teacher introduce him in the first place, seems like a lousy move to me.) Super sad dad saves the day and buys a superman costume for his kiddo as to make him popular.

All the kids love the new kid since he has a cool costume.

Buy your friends. That’s the message.

Boy howdy, that’s an awesome idea to bank on (sarcasm intended).

Advertising must be built around the right precepts

If you are unaware of Stealing Share’s “Preceptive Behavior Model” I encourage you to read up on it.

The “Superboy” spot for Amazon Prime TV is rooted in erroneous precepts, like: “I believe my self-worth is derived from what I own,” and “Popular clothing styles will make people like me.” These are disgusting thoughts, no?

Can these spineless anecdotes be the backbone of Amazon’s Advertising model?

I wish it weren’t the case, but if this commercial is any kind of evidence, this was indeed Amazon’s intention.

Horrible though, isn’t it?

Apple’s mistakes make me mad

I am beginning to detest this new fad coming out of Apple Inc and Apple’s mistakes are making me mad.

Apple's mistakes are bad for the brand
So magical no one can get them…

It appears with every new release that’s about to hit the market, something backfires badly. Quite frankly, I am tired of hearing that products planned for release are suddenly not ready. Consider the AirPods which were originally slated to be released alongside the iPhone 7. Still no sign of them. To my chagrin, the Apple website still claims the Bluetooth headphones are “Coming Soon.” It’s been saying that for a while. Bad news for the AirPods though, as this isn’t the only problem the device is going to face (http://www.stealingshare.com/2016/09/08/apple-airpods-wont-succeed/).

I remember when I bought my iPad Pro; similarly, you could only get portions of the device upon its release. Devices were available but keyboard cases were a bear tough to find and the accompanying Apple Pencil was next to impossible to purchase.

I just can’t stand this type of fictitious marketing or the inability for a company to be properly prepared when it says so.  And Apple, one of my most respected brands, is one of the worst at this practice.

Issues with the new software update are par for the course.

When I read that the latest IOS update, 10.1.1, was wreaking havoc on Apple devices; I wasn’t surprised. Nope, not in the slightest. Apple's mistakes are becoming too frequentRather, I was annoyed. Once again, Apple only had the finish line in mind and missed the small details along the way.

You simply cannot miss these.

Right now, Apple remains one of, if not the strongest brand in the world. As it is ruler in its class, it has some wiggle room when it makes mistakes. The fans will most likely remain fans and work around the speedbumps. But, this won’t always be the case. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are all making tremendous technological leaps and bounds; and each has devices that now have just as much “cool” factor as Apple’s do. Respectfully, the ill-preparedness of Apple will catch up with it soon and it should take heed In the words of the legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

Belk Department Stores Advertising

Belk Department Stores — Modern. Southern. Style.

Belk Department Stores LogoThis brand theme(s) is supposed to get you (are you listening shoppers?) to skip other retail stores and online shops and to spend your time and money at Belk department stores. Wait a second while I gag.

I guess the marketers at Belk believe that three mediocre ideas are better than a single great one. This is a perfect example of a ship with no rudder.

Belk Department Stores
The obligatory shot of women in gowns catching footballs

It really pisses me off that Belk went through a supposed rebranding a few years back.

Like most of the rebranding garbage out there, Belk ended up with a new logo and color palette and not much more (smells like politics to me).

Navel gazing has never helped anyone and it has not surly not helped Belk either.

Great branding has a clear and emotionaly important single idea. Obviously, Belk could not decide what that was so it settled for three ideas.

Here is what Belk Department Stores has to say about themselves:

Belk, Inc., a private department store company based in Charlotte, N.C., is the home of Modern. Southern. Style. with 293 Belk stores located in 16 Southern states and a growing digital presence.

Belk Department Stores are owned by Sycamore partnersBelk is a portfolio company of Sycamore Partners (So much for Southern Roots. Last I checked, Sycamore Partners are in NYC), a private equity firm based in New York. Belk and www.belk.com offer a wide assortment of national brands and private label fashion apparel, shoes and accessories for the entire family along with top name cosmetics, a wedding registry and a large selection of quality merchandise for the home.

Belk offers many ways to connect via digital and social media, including Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google Plus, …”

Do I live in a imaginary world?

Belk Department Stores
Where fashion meets football. Good God. These writers actually got paid.

I live in the South (as I remember, North Carolina is south of the Mason-Dixon line).

The problem with Belk is not its origins or its Southern focus.

The problem is that it IS a department store.

Go back 30 years and that’s like being LIFE or LOOK Magazine.

Department Stores are generalist ships drowning in a sea of specialty boats.

The problem with Belk department stores is not that they are in the South or that their offerings are so yesterday or out of style (which the brand drivel passes off as a reason to choose).

The Belk department stores REAL problem

The problem is that all department stores are generalists (see Macys here). That means they do nothing exceptionally well but instead do everything just OKAY.

They need to remember that the enemy of great is not bad. The enemy of great is GOOD.

Belk Department StoresSo, what does a generalist do to save the sinking ship? I KNOW… advertise heavily on generalist media like TV!

This is nothing new, but it is so stupid that I have trouble even talking about it. But wait. It gets worse.

Belk actually advertises heavily on the ESPN SEC Network during football games. That’s because it is the main venue of all Southern women and the well heeled Southern guys.

Because, as guys, we all care and influence where our ladies shop. We all demand that our wives and girlfriends visit Belk because of the SEC connection.

Oh wait, I just remembered why I think it is such a stupid idea to me here in North Carolina.

We are an ACC state. Shit.

My Bad.

Oh, by the way… here is a REAL rebranding idea for department stores.

Retail advertising awareness drops

Tis the season where many retail advertising makes or breaks the retailers themselves. That’s why Stealing Share has been offering suggestions and criticisms for the industry lately.

retail advertising
With low awareness of all retail advertising, the future of those retailers is uncertain.

It’s a market that’s simply a mess. NBC News recently reported that a handful of retailers may announce closings unless this season’s sales drastically change things. Shoppers are increasingly shopping online. That’s a problem for retailers because Amazon owns that space.

The simply fact of the matter is that retailers are in this quandary because they thought they could exist on low prices and relative convenience. Turns out that shopping on Amazon is more convenient and offers the better deals. Who knew?

Shoppers also buy based on brand. And, right now, there is so little loyalty among consumers to those brands that the new parlor game is figuring out the order of retailers going belly up.

Most ignore retail advertising.

The news gets worse. The YouGov BrandIndex reported that almost half of all large retailers are seeing their retail advertising awareness drop from a year ago. Kmart and Best Buy suffered the biggest drops, but the whole slate of retailers have lower retail advertising awareness.

A bit of caution here. Awareness is one thing. I’m sure most people know of Kmart and Best Buy. What meaning they gather from those retailers is what creates preference, the more important factor.

But low advertising awareness means that those ads are not resonating with consumers. They are simply ignored. And they should be.

The one retailer whose retail advertising is resonating is, get this, Amazon. That’s partly because its new spot – A Priest and Imam meet for a cup of tea – is unlike anything else on the airwaves. It hits a political and social nerve that no other retailer would ever attempt.

But it’s also because Amazon means something to consumers. What does Macy’s mean? What does Old Navy mean? Bed, Bath & Beyond? Any of them?

We can help. Call us. But it means being honest in your own advertising and brand evaluation. Otherwise, the doom and gloom continues.

McDonald’s tactics are not enough

Here’s another one of McDonald’s tactics that is an exercise in sheer stupidity.

McDonald’s, the fast-food king of the world, is instituting kiosks for ordering and initiating tableside service.

Let me write that again. Tableside service at McDonald’s.

McDonald's tactics
McDonald’s tactics are just that. They don’t fix the main problem.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

What I want most from a McDonald’s is somebody waiting on me as they serve me crap food. What’s wrong with the current system? We order food, get it and eat it. Simple and easy. The industry is called fast food, after all.

Also, for most people, the drive-thru is the main source of delivery, so this is just a stunt. McDonald’s does not typify a dining experience. And it never will.

McDonald’s tactics do nothing to help the brand.

What’s more, this absurd new process is anything but simple: “The company said once people order at one of the stations — sleek, vertical touchscreens — they will get a digital location device and can take a seat. When their burgers and fries are ready, the technology will guide a server to the table to deliver the food with a big smile and a thank you,” according to The New York Times.

I can see that happening swimmingly, can’t you?

In my humble opinion, McDonalds had nothing to fix but it’s brand. But it is so darn nervous about losing share in the fast food industry that it is willing to try anything.

But these superficial changes are just tactics. The real problem here is that the fast food industry is under fire. Less and less of us want to plow our faces with garbage food. We want a semblance of health in our lives. Something that isn’t McDonald’s.

I’m sorry, that mindset won’t change because of a kiosk and a phony smile serving a pile of grease.

The soft drink industry sees trouble

The soft drink industry must wake up to a new reality.

You see, there are all kinds of business trends that are transforming industries. We’ve already seen what our smartphones have replaced. Streaming media has made CDs and DVDs obsolete. And, as we’ve written extensively, cold breakfast cereal is in its own mess.

The failure to recognize what’s going on and building your brand to respond to market forces will leave you in the dust. Retailers are flat-out ignorant of enacting true change to adapt to a new reality, which includes dead malls.

The soft drink industry is also experiencing massive change. Bottled water has replaced many of our sugar-infested soda drinking habits, with soda sales dropping 1.5% in 2015. The industry itself is responding with ads saying its players will reduce the amount of sugar and offer smaller sizes.

This is, of course, the equivalent of the tobacco industry saying it will have light cigarettes with less tar in them. The industry itself knows that it has a problem, but is trying to stem the tide of consumers leaving it.

However, the soft drink industry is also responding by diversifying their portfolios. The epitome of irony is that those soft drink companies now own most of the most recognizable bottled water brands.

How the soft drink industry can survive.

If I were to make a prediction, I’d say Coca-Cola has the best chance of surviving for one simple reason. It’s the only one with a meaningful and preferred brand. Pepsi once held a direct position against Coke by being about youth, while Coca-Cola was about nostalgia.

Since those heydays, however, Pepsi has been all over the map and must consider a new direction. Today’s youth are veering away from soft drinks. (A 19-year-old son of a co-worker has never sipped a soda in his life.) Capturing the imagination of Millennials is important, but that means all the players need a different strategy. Not just thumb plugging a hole in the dam.

Even Coke’s recent announcement of a selfie bottle won’t do the trick. It’s a gimmick. Big whoop.

A repositioning is in order for all the players. Otherwise, it demonstrates another industry failing to respond to trends in a meaningful manner.

American Airlines Rebranding Failure

American Airlines rebranding is an example of all that is wrong with branding

American Airlines RebrandingThe American Airlines rebranding initiative earlier this year is an example of what pisses me off with branding companies and the drivel they sell to clients.

It was a total waste of money. Worse still, it was a squandering of an opportunity to lead and grow.

Here is a little background for any of you who don’t follow the airline industry as closely as I do (read a market study on the industry here if you are interested).

American Airlines Rebranding
The old American Airlines logo

The merger

American Airlines merged (or purchased depending on your point of view) with US Airways.

American Airlines rebranding was necessary because the old American Airlines company was having a difficult time staying afloat.

It had to go through reorganization just to continue in the business. US Airways was not in any better shape.

Regulators approved the merger because it was believed that, without the acquisition, American Airlines would not be a viable company anymore. It was believed that having American go belly-up would be a bad thing for consumers (the flying public).

But who cares about you and I? What it really meant was that, as consumers, we would have less competition and fares would increase as a result. Same thing happened when United and Continental merged and when Delta and Northwest did the same.

The flying public is not a consideration in this equation, the viability of a large corporation was.

Here is the real problem with the American Airlines Rebranding

American Airlines RebrandingThe industry needs to rethink its business model and the airlines need to redefine their brands. Public sentiment hates the airlines.

They have become unreasonably difficult to use, are costly and unreliable. The passenger is always on back burner.

If your flight is delayed, they appolgize but it turns out to be only your problem. “Please stay in the gate area” even if the flight is delayed an hour or more.

You are captive to the gate because, if the airline should find another plane to run the route, they might take off before the projected delayed estimate— and if you are late, well screw you.

American Airlines had an opportunity at the time of merger to redefine its brand, change its business model and flip the playing field upon which all the copycat competitors compete.

It SHOULD have rebranded. Instead they went to Futurebrand and got a new logo.

A new logo is NOT Rebranding

Who is to blame for this? American Airlines should bare much of the blame. It was lazy and complacent in looking to redefine the category and the brand.

It is the sort of thinking that got it into financial trouble in the first place. But Futurebrand is complicit too.

American airlines rebranding
The NEW American Airlines logo

Why did it not tell American Airlines the truth?

That American was losing the opportunity to grow its market share beyond the simple fact that it was merging into a larger airline.

It’s because Stealing Share competes in an industry (rebranding) that does not understand the business it is in.

Other brand companies still sell corporate identity changes and pass it off as rebranding. No wonder the art of branding has a bad reputation.

Here is the result of that effort by American Airlines and Futurebrand. A new logo, a new name—The New American Airlines (absolute genius don’t you agree?) and a theme that tells the flying public that they are now the largest airline in the world.

God knows that is why we choose them!