• 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

Hulu Streaming Summer campaign misguided

I recently recently saw a handful of print ads I really dislike.

That’s not an exaggeration. The thinking behind these ads makes me cringe, and I have Hulu to thank for it.

Hulu Streaming SummerHere’s the gist of what made me sick.

The print ads, running in tandem with a series of TV spots, boast the heading: “Your Summer Now Streaming.”  Each includes a screen shot from a popular show available on Hulu plus a clever line of copy to accompany. For example, a character from the show Empire is dancing with the copy, “Beat the Heat. Drop the Beat” superimposed over her. Or an image of Kramer from Seinfeld searching for gold along a coastline with the copy, “Discover more this summer.”

Hulu Streaming SummerThe connotation of the Hulu streaming summer is what annoys me the most. The suggestion is that Hulu viewers are those who hide from the outside world and watch TV all day. While it might be true (we all binge on seasons), it isn’t a wise position to take because it’s not aspirational.

Hulu’s brand identity is all messed up. 

I’ve written extensively on the necessity of rebranding. It’s worth saying again that, “Brand must be a real and powerful emotional connection that causes the prospect and customer to notice, prefer and covet the brand. The target audience develops these attachments because the brand helps them reinforce their own self-identity. They only covet it because it is all about them.”

Hulu PlusNobody wants to be like the people these advertisement suggests they are, and nobody would ever care to admit they are that disconnected from the world around them, like these ads suggest.

The message is an idiotic one, that it’s a good thing to ignore the wondrous world around you. Instead, skip the great outdoors of Summer and watch TV instead.

Hannah and her horse or Eli Manning

Hannah and her horse or Ely ManningDirecTV does it again. Badly.

Based upon the public response to my blog on the DirecTV Hannah and Her Horse debacle, it looks as though DirecTV is coming around to recognize that everything quirky and absurd from their ad agency (Gray) might not be creative (the fallback position taken by advertising agencies all over the globe). So now we have a choice between Hannah and her horse or Eli Manning. Hannah and her horse is simply stupid (not exactly a great brand position) and your brand needs to reflect the target audience that you hope to influence. No one wants to be ignorant and stupid.

So picture this for a moment. DirecTV had a great and effective campaign starring Rob Lowe that was clever enough to be funny and absurd enough to remain fresh. It was pulled and Gray Advertising, in all of its wondrous creative ability, sold the Hannah and Her Horse campaign to a trusting client. Its failing miserably.

A failed reworking of what worked.

Now they have a tactical need to sell DirecTV’s NFL coverage as a USP (Unique Selling Proposition)—an old and dog-eared idea that has outlived its usefulness by four decades. Both camps recognize that Hannah and her horse is not a path to pursue. So they developed a new campaign. But it really is not new. It is poor rehash and hacked-up version of the one campaign that actually worked. “Don’t be like this Rob Lowe”.

The dialogue between DirecTV and the agency.

So here is my made up guess of the stupid agency/client banter when the decision was made between Hannah and her horse or Eli Manning (or Tony Romo):

DirecTV: We need to highlight our NFL coverage to take advantage of the rabid NFL fans in the fall and their insatiable appetite for anything NFLish.

Gray: We can get Hannah’s Horse to introduce the package.

DirectTV: Don’t even go there. The campaign sucks.

Gray:Well, how about a reworking of the Rob Lowe campaign that everyone sparked to. We could use that GREAT format with NFL Quarterbacks? Let’s use Tony Romo and Eli Manning!

Direct TV: Brilliant. Let’s make it happen.

A lack of understanding as to what worked.

Hannah and Her Horse and Eli Manning are both failures. The problem with this new campaign is that both camps believe that things are fungible. They never really understood why the Rob Lowe campaign worked and so they have substituted football stars for Rob Lowe and the results are simply dumb. They confused the campaign set-up with the very thing that made the Rob Lowe campaign work. Rob Lowe.

We were all used to seeing an actor play characters and we understood the difference between them. We also remembered that Rob Lowe had a past history of creepiness and that added to the memorability of the campaign. Rob was able to play both characters with a sense of self and a self-deprecating attitude that placed the brand directly into importance. It worked because it worked on many levels.

The new campaign is almost as stupid as Hannah and Her Horse. It doesn’t work because there is no brand there. It is a superfluous exercise in futility. DirecTV could use some brand help because someone does not recognize the essence of that brand in what worked and what doesn’t. The advertising agency, like all of their comrades in crime, should never be left to define a brand because it has no idea what that means. For the agency, it all comes down to what it calls creativity. Too bad it doesn’t understand effectiveness too.

Sharp TVs are leaving the Americas

All you need to know why it’s difficult to discern among the television brands is to read this quite from Lee Neikirk of Reviewed.com. He’s discussion the advantages of Sharp TVs, which are being discontinuing in the Americas.

“Sharp TVs are perhaps most notable for their Quattron technology, with introduces a fourth sub-pixel into the traditional RGB matrix. In recent year, Sharp has also experimented with effective upscaling – as seen in the company’s Beyond 4K Ultra HD TV – and a moth eye screen that diffuses light.”


Of course, Neikirk is an industry insider whose job it is to dig into the different technologies.

Explain the technology please.
Explain the technology please.

But what he wrote is not all that far from what the TV manufacturers say themselves to target audiences. It’s all technological gobbledygook that penetrates our minds about as effectively as a snowball against a brick wall.

Sharp has become the latest victim of such an approach as the 103-year-old Japanese company is pulling out of the TV business in the Americas following low sales and a single focus on the technology of the TV.

As we said in a television manufacturer study a few years ago, the brands within the market think televisions are all about the technology. That’s akin to talking only about product benefits if you’re selling automobiles. Product benefits are important, but don’t confuse them with the reason why consumers choose.

It’s easy to see why manufacturers have fallen into this trap. The race for a clearer, deeper and bigger viewing experience has made them head to the R&D labs with urgency. Once the new technology comes out, the manufacturers tout it. Then it’s on to the next technology.

The problem is that, even if you develop a true breakthrough, it’s only a matter of time until everyone has similar technology. At that point, consumers are not buying based on technology but on price and what brand makes them feel the most comfortable.

My own choice of TV.

I recently bought a Sony Bravia for one of my backrooms and I’ll tell you how I chose that one. The TVs are all in an array at the back of the store. I knew what size I needed and what my budget was.

Then I checked the brands. Among them, Sony felt like the safest choice among the Vizios and, yes, the Sharps sitting along side it.

That was it. I chose based on brand.

If TV manufacturers continue to think the technology is what is going to sell their TVs first and foremost, they also might go the way of Sharp. Technology is important, but the brand is what consumers use to navigate themselves through the confusing gobbledygook.

CMOs realize they must steal market share

Well, this isn’t much of a surprise. According to survey of chief marketing officers, only 5% said they were confident in their agency’s performance.

The survey, conducted by the CMO Council and Ebiquity, was focused on how satisfied CMOs were about receiving the right kind of data from their agencies. More than 80% said they were looking for usable data that helped marketing positively affect the bottom line.


Stealing market share is the only goal of marketing.
Stealing market share is the only goal of marketing.

We at Stealing Share have longed preached that advertising agencies are creative, but not strategic and rarely data-driven in any important way. Oh sure, they may conduct usage and attitude studies, but they are not useful in developing strategies that, ahem, steal market share.

You see, the dirty little secret of advertising agencies is that they want to build long-term relationships with clients, so they end up with data and strategies that mean the most to the client. Not to the target audience they are trying to persuade.

That’s the reason why most advertising has become a waste of time and money. It’s the reason why you see so much TV advertising, for example, that is basically a 30-second skit with the company’s logo appearing at the end. Those ads may win awards and go viral on YouTube, but they do very little to improve the bottom line.

Interestingly, the survey showed that CMOs are having to be more accountable to the company’s bottom line, which means that CEOs are sensing that they are foolishly spending money on flashy campaigns that don’t really steal market share.

Some advice to CMOs.

Now, you can read all about how Stealing Share makes this happen on our site. But I’d like to give CMOs some advice.

Look from the outside-in and not inside-out. Conventional wisdom is to identify something important about the brand and give life to that importance. That’s inside-out thinking and results in messaging that is identical to your competition.

But brand is never about you. Instead, it’s about the beliefs and needs of the people you must influence. Not in the things you make or your company itself.

That means you must ask more of the research you conduct. Your research must go beyond usage and attitudes, and more into switching triggers and precepts, the values that actually move audiences.

The strange part of that approach is that many companies and CMOs don’t want to hear that because they may find out that what they consider important about their brand is actually not important at all to target audiences. You have to slay the sacred cows and look at things objectively.

It’s no surprise to me that CMOs are getting more pressure because the state of advertising has been overtaken by those looking to win awards, affirm what CMOs already believe and entertain an audience.

The simple truth is those goals are not important. Stealing market share is the only goal.

Tom Brady and the culture of cheating

There are more scenarios to play out for final judgment, but it sure is becoming difficult to believe that Tom Brady didn’t direct balls to be deflated for last season’s AFC Championship Game and that he did cooperate with the ensuing investigation.

That’s where were are at the moment with Deflategate.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the four-game suspension after Brady’s appeal, charging the NFL star with destroying his cell phone the day before or the day of him being questioned by investigators.

It's getting hard to believe Brady.
It’s getting hard to believe Brady.

That’s the main sticking point when it comes, not in federal court where the players’ union will sue the NFL over the appeal process, but in the court of public opinion. The NFL said “Mr. Brady knew about, approved of, consented to, and provided inducements and rewards” to equipment managers to deflate the balls. That means the phone was evidence and the timing of its destruction is suspicious at best.

Brady says he always destroys his old phone when he gets a new one (he switched from an Android to an iPhone 6, so he’s acquired good taste). But the timing makes that hard to believe. (And the NFL says that Brady still has an older phone he didn’t destroy.)

Once the lawyers have had it (and who knows how long that process will take), many of us will start to wonder about the brand of Tom Brady. I’m not talking legacy because I still see this as a minor offense and I believe Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, regardless.

But the story of Tom Brady has always had its underdog charm. He shared the QB position in college with a baseball prospect, was drafted alarmingly low (sixth round) by the New England Patriots, become the Lou Gehrig to Drew Bledsoe’s Wally Pip by winning four Super Bowls and married a supermodel.

That’s the American dream, isn’t it?

Where we go from here.

Now, with the shadow of Spygate (the Patriots were penalized for filming opponents’ signals in 2007), we wonder if Brady and the Patriots foster a culture of cheating. For the fanatic anti-Patriot fan, that’s a no-brainer yes.

For the rest of us, who fall in the middle, there will always be that cloud of suspicion, whether Brady wins the lawsuit or not. The damage has been done.

We probably expect our sport idols to be perfect too much and for them to ignore their competitive nature when we deem it appropriate. But if the brand of Tom Brady (and the New England Patriots) is shadowy, then to repair the brand means being the opposite of that. To be transparent.

Brady has responded on Facebook, refuting the NFL’s claims, but it doesn’t quite hold water. (For one thing, the explanation for destroying the phone is hard to believe.)

The courts will take over now but it would behoove Brady, if he is interested in repairing his public image (and he may not), to be candid, open and honest. He will no doubt be lawyered up for the moment, but he’s still got some work to do.

Gordon Ramsay may flame out

There once was a time when Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares was my favorite show on television.

But then Gordon Ramsay, like dandelions, started popping up everywhere. This is terribly unfortunate because, just like dandelions, the first few Gordon Ramsay shows were pleasant enough, but after a while they were as annoying as weeds.

I’m not going to bash Gordon Ramsay. I like the guy. There have been times in Kitchen Nightmares where you can see a deep level of earnestness and compassion in him. He cheers on the underdog and praises the hard work of individuals who might not always receive it. He also, as we know, tells it like it is.

But why is he everywhere?

Gordon Ramsay should be cooking more. 

There’s this video circulating on Facebook of Ramsay cooking the “perfect steak.”

It’s intoxicating, isn’t it? Watching it makes me feel like I am viewing a master who can effortlessly achieve his goals. That’s a special thing to behold.

Why then isn’t Gordon Ramsay treating his brand as carefully?

Instead, we are inundated with formulaic shows where Ramsay is yelling all the time about scallops not being cooked (Hells’ Kitchen) or of him making cliche restaurant changes (the Americanized version of Kitchen Nightmares) or, his most commendable foray, leading a competition of home cooks (Master Chef).

Gordon Ramsay is overexposed.

The flames are metaphorical only.
The flames are metaphorical only.

Stealing Share has written a great deal about repairing an ailing brand. Sometimes, the process involves brand repair. In this case, Ramsay is overexposed and will eventually flame out at this rate. It’s time to step back.

Gordon Ramsay and his management team should consider his brand clearly and fix permissions that limit acceptance or create barriers. Limitations like television shows that expose him as a cartoon-like hot head and have the same outcomes, year in and year out.

It’s time for Gordon Ramsay to cut the fat. Here’s what I think he should do: have one first-rate show doing what he does best: cook.

Fiat Chrysler hack disturbing in many ways

Now this Fiat Chrysler hack is a little scary. Fiat Chrysler is recalling its new Jeep Cherokees after the company found that its Internet connectivity can be hacked.

The uConnect system, which allows drivers to control their entertainment and navigation abilities while driving, is being recalled to update the software.

The pitfall of all this technology.
The pitfall of all this technology.

This is only the beginning. Auto sales are rising in 2015 for several reasons. Cars that most of us have kept going longer than we normally would have are now being turned in for newer models, consumers are getting savvier about buying online (and dealerships are getting smarter about how to transform that into on-lot sales) and new automobiles are being outfitted with new technology.

Sales had dipped over the last decade, primarily because the manufacturers gave consumers few reasons to trade in their own vehicles that were running just fine. Messaging, as we’ve seen in our latest automotive study, is all so similar that consumers can’t distinguish one brand from another. (Which is why there is little brand loyalty and some inertia.)

Technology, having a vehicle that’s as tapped into the Internet as your laptop, has been the driving force for new trade-ins. Now, consumers have a reason to upgrade from their technology-less vehicles.

The problem with all this new technology.

But there are two issues looming that automakers must consider. For one, as the Fiat Chrysler hack has shown, security will become an initial differentiating force as consumers want to make sure that their information and control are protected. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing ads in the coming months that hit on the idea of Internet security.

That’s all fine and good. But, eventually, technology and security will become table stakes, i.e., what you need to even play in the market. Pretty soon, all new brands will have up-to-date technology and powerful security. Those values will become as common as low gas mileage is today.

That means automotive manufacturers will be left in the same place they were heading into this year: Having nothing that provides a true choice among all the competition.

McDonalds all day breakfast is a Band-Aid

McDonalds has released an internal memo to its franchises saying that they should prepare for the possibility of an October rollout of a limited-breakfast all-day menu. It is no secret that McDonalds has been struggling the last few years as consumers move to other options in a never-ending sea of fast food and quick service options (as well as healthier options). McDonalds has, at least in my estimation, also done a poor job in marketing (anyone need more lovin?) and positioning its brand as both relevant and important.

This memo to its franchises, though not definite, just feels like McDonalds doing more of the same – grasping at anything with no sense of direction for its brand.

Offering the Egg McMuffin all day will make the sales of McDonalds rise?
Offering the Egg McMuffin all day will make the sales of McDonalds rise?

Based upon some success in San Diego and Nashville, the McDonalds all day breakfast menu will be offered, citing that “Our customers love it — they’ve been asking for it for years…”

McDonalds hopes this new menu will help its sagging sales but this kind of thinking is exactly why McDonald’s is failing to regain its lost traction. Think about what McDonald’s is saying when it rationalizes this step by saying, “Our customers love it — they’ve been asking for it for years…”

McDonalds is saying that people, its customers, have been asking for it for years – the people that already are choosing McDonalds. So I ask you, are those people who are asking for it going to a competitor for fast-food breakfast at lunch or dinner? Likely not.

Breakfast all day is a temporary fix.

Locally, Sonic is the only all-day full menu breakfast drive-thru restaurant and, while it has some success with breakfast items later in the night, its focus on lunch and dinner is certainly on traditional items with emphasis on shakes and beverages.

I guess McDonalds’ customers could go to a Denny’s, IHOP, Waffle House, Cracker Barrel or the like but that would mean no drive-thru. My hunch is that most of those asking for it are coming in at 11 am, trying to order an Egg McMuffin, or the late night crowd who want an order of fries and a breakfast burrito.

While a move like this will certainly give McDonalds a marginal boost in some markets, it will not rescue McDonalds from its sagging sales. When you throw in the operational complication, this is a recipe for failed expectations on the part of McDonalds management. The problems of McDonalds are deeper than offering breakfast at other day parts. The once vital McDonalds brand has failed to remain relevant, vital and important. Breakfast at lunch or dinner will not make the brand.