• 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

For the troubled NFL, it’s a good thing Bill Parcells is out of coaching

Bill Parcells was a great coach. If he were actively coaching today, he would be a very good coach. But the world, hopefully, has passed Bill Parcells by and moved forward.

I listened to an interview with Parcells just this morning on NPR. It was the second part of an interview that the aging coach gave to NPR this week. Today’s focus was about Ray Rice and whether he could or should be playing in the NFL today. Coach Parcells had plenty of experience with players with dependency issues during his career (think Lawrence Taylor) and many thought his methods of dealing with those problems was ahead of their time. Not any more.

Maybe winning isn't everything.
Maybe winning isn’t everything.

Coach Parcells said that, as a coach, he always believed in second chances, saying, “Well, I’m pretty much a second chance guy. I think if someone has demonstrated a true alteration of his behavior and true remorse for some of the things that happened, you could understand how you could kind of say, ‘OK, let’s see.’”

Then he added, “It was a very unfortunate incident, but young people, highly emotional, alcohol involved, sometimes stuff happens that you wish wouldn’t happen.” Yes, Coach, punching your wife in the face and knocking her out in an elevator is certainly unfortunate.

I hope that the game that Parcells dominated with his winning ways has indeed passed him by. The interview went on to demonstrate exactly what is wrong with a game where winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Parcells let everyone know that he is a dinosaur by this remark about the real devil in the Ray Rice details. “I think unfortunately for Ray, it came at a time in his career, well, he was well down the road. I mean, a running back’s longevity isn’t that long. Usually anyway.”

All too true, Coach T-Rex. It’s too bad that no act of violence, anti-social activity or sociopathic activity excludes someone from playing in the fractured world of the NFL if that individual can contribute to WINNING.

I just wanted to mention that the Patriot’s coach Bill Belichick cut his teeth as an assistant to Bill Parcells. Well there’s a surprise. #Bill Barcells #NFL #Ray Rice #Bill Belichick #Super Bowl Cheating #NFL Scandals

How respected brands like McDonald’s lose importance

The news is not good for Mattel, worse for Radio Shack and mixed on McDonald’s (as this Blog was posted, McDonald’s announce the departure of its CEO. You can read about that here.) All of these are legacy brands that once dominated their categories. (Although it should be noted that McDonald’s still leads the fast food category, just precariously.) What happened to them is worth a look because the tribulations they face are consistent with the issues that all brands face at one time or another.

Even brands as strong as McDonald's lose their luster.
Even brands as strong as McDonald’s lose their luster.

I have written about Radio Shack many times (see the links at the bottom of this post), but in light of the brand’s demise, it is worth another quick look.

The problem with Radio Shack was its toxic mixture of sacred cows (like its name) and a confusion of the business of its business and the business of its brand. The business of its business was selling electronics and electronic parts. That was the easy part. But the business of its brand was never quite understood.

Consumers choose brands they believe fit in with their sense of self. They look at a brand as if it is a suit of clothes that they themselves wear because, when they choose to identify with that brand, they emotionally wear the brand themselves.

The Radio Shack brand was so awkward and goofy that only the electronic geeks felt at home there. However, I bet that even the electronic geek saw Radio Shack as less than authentic when, in an effort to upgrade the business of their business, they featured kids’ toys and low-end appliances. Radio Shack failed because it never rebranded. Oh, it tried to update the logo and silly tagline but that is not rebranding. That’s tweaking corporate identity. It went to one of our competitors (a list of other branding companies can be found here) and it got back a series of meaningless identity changes that felt as awkward as the brand itself. Shopping at the “Shack” was never a valued choice.

Mattel is interesting because the brand has some value to baby boomers such as myself. It represented games and toys from my youth. Mattel had every TV game show from those days as board games. Most also know that Mattel owns the Barbie franchise. But “The Future of Play,” its new promise, is so badly wrong that I don’t know where to start.

Play is never a promise of the future (that is the business of the business). It is always in the present. Mattel has no brand beyond its business and no one favors anything it makes because of a strong brand association. This lack of brand equity cost the CEO his job earlier this week and, unless the brand wakes up and truly rebrands, there will be a fire sale very soon.

McDonald’s is a more complicated story. It was America’s drive-thru for many years and its sandwiches and Golden Arches are as close to mom’s apple pie as you can get. The problem is that McDonald’s is not purely an American brand anymore. It is global and the brand has gotten lazy and complacent because of its dominance.

But even that position is starting to fracture. There is now tons of competition in every day part. Even more competition from the fast casual market has eroded more and more of McDonald’s position. The brand has moved over the years from a young adult fast food joint to a children-directed restaurant and back again to a more mainstream feeder with its McCafe market move. McDonald’s even sells its McCafe coffee K-cups in supermarkets.

The problem is that McDonald’s brand is still fuzzy in our minds. We are not yet sure if the suit of clothing we wear when we choose them is just convenience, familiarity, obesity, indulgence or completely thoughtless.

The business itself has become lazy. Maybe even complacent. McDonald’s used to lead the category in innovation and store design, but it has yet to embrace the digital age with an app or mobile purchasing system. And it has never tried to capitalize on its market share with any affinity program. Instead, it falls back to games and co-promotions with the latest sci-fi or animated movie.

I think McDonald’s needs to rethink its brand because the innovations I spoke of do not make a brand. They arise from an existing brand. A brand that understands that the customer owns the brand and the business of its business only manages it and makes sure it is real.

(More about Radio Shack here, here, here, here and here.)

The Super Bowl for the “super” brands

I’m sure I’ll write more about this later, but I wanted to start this year’s Stealing Share Super Bowl conversation today. As I look at the list of advertisers this year, it is a familiar one with Budweiser, BMW, Coke, Doritos, McDonalds, and T-Mobile on the list, just to name a few. The cost for a single ad is up about a half million dollars over last year to $4.5 million.

I doubt advertisers could ever show a measurable ROI. But for this expense, agencies will do their best to show raw impressions, social media buzz and reach while using some alien technology to create a number that makes everyone high-five and pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

But I ask you, “Who really cares?”

We don't always watch the Super Bowl just for the game itself.
We don’t always watch the Super Bowl just for the game itself.

InBev has purchased at least seven spots, which seems a little excessive. If it had purchased five, would fewer people drink Bud Light? What if it didn’t purchase any? Couldn’t the $30 million it spent have been used for something more persuasive?

And that is the thing. It is really not about persuasion. Consumers will forget most of the ads before they stumble to the TV to turn it off. Loctite, which makes glues, is spending its normal annual ad budget on one ad. Do you buy super glue often enough that you will remember one ad in a four-hour game filled with ads? BMW, Kia, Lexus, Nissan, Mercedes, and Toyota all have purchased ads. Will anyone remember which car company did which ad?

So to the advertising agencies, the network and the NFL, I say congratulations on selling that ad space. To the consumers, enjoy the entertainment. To the brands, I know it makes you feel good to see your ads on the Super Bowl telecast. But if you are trying to persuade consumers with this ad spend, you might as well just flush your money down a different kind of bowl.

Lance Armstrong finally admits the truth about the NFL

So when asked, if he had to do it all over again, Lance Armstrong admitted that he would have doped all over again. This, of course, was in the context of an era of doping.

So what does this all have to do with the NFL? Oddly enough, they are both quite linked because both Lance Armstrong and the NFL are simply saying, in the words of Vince Lombardi, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Who would have thought that this revered coach’s words would become such a sad commentary on the nature of sports?

Lance is just letting us all know that if, in an era of doing and cheating, he had to do it all over again that he would have doped and cheated. You see, cheaters seem to pay no price in sports and what Lance is really saying is that his cheating brought him all the fame and privilege of the entitled and those gains were worth the price of sacrificing his own integrity. For the hapless fan, there is really no way to vote and be counted on the continued hubris of Armstrong. His money is already in the bank.

There's only one way to vote against the NFL. Don't watch.
There’s only one way to vote against the NFL. Don’t watch.

The NFL is another story. Everyone here in the office is angry with me because I tell everyone that nothing will happen as a result of the Patriot’s cheating in Deflategate. My coworkers protest that “lots of changes will take place.”

Ridiculous. You see, you still have the right to voice your opinion on the NFL and its total disregard for human decency. You can stop watching the games (like the upcoming, soiled Super Bowl). You have within your power to remove the possibility of the NFL being akin to the gloating Armstrong (who plays contrition as he goes to the bank).

We have learned a few things about the NFL. It is not a sport, it is a religion. There are no NFL fans, just NFL adherents. What the adherents are willing to forgive the league of is a long list. Forgiving the torture of animals. Turning a blind eye to a guy who cold-cocks his wife in an elevator. Ignoring the permanent brain damage caused by just playing the game. Widespread steroid use (Lance would be proud). Keeping a commissioner in his high paying job precisely because he puts financial gains ahead of principle. Moving teams from one city to the next in the dead of night. Refusing to acknowledge responsibility for the dementia that the game causes and cheating to win at any cost.

So don’t complain about winning being the only thing when you ask no pound of flesh for the grievance. The NFL can do anything and get away with it because it is a super brand. It knows that the only thing is money and no one will make them pay. You know what? Lance Armstrong might have been a great football player had he taken a slightly different direction.

Do we really need Vudu Spark?

I’m a bit baffled with Walmart.

It seems like every major tech company in the world is releasing some kind of steaming television device. This begs the question, did Walmart need enter the foray as well?

We have the Roku Streaming Stick, the Amazon Fire Stick, and the Google Chromecast, not to mention Apple TV and all the smart TVs that stream on their own. Surely, this is enough for us to choose from.

Seems that the folks at Walmart didn’t think so.

Does anyone really need this?
Does anyone really need this?

Enter the $25 Vudu Spark, (even the name feels like a rip from the competition, doesn’t it?) brought to you by Walmart.

Yup, its cheap. But it’s also a piece of junk, and I hope people don’t buy it. Unlike the competition, which offers options like Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO GO as streaming options, the Vudu Spark comes loaded with one singular app: Vudu.

How useless and boring.

The Vudu app kind of follows the iTunes movie store model whereby users can rent videos and TV episodes. So, you always have to pay.

This is not what people want. Nope, we want a lot of spectacular options for a small monthly fee.

Think about the decline of purchased music due to streaming services like Spotify. Why should we think TV and video are any different? Really, we shouldn’t, because they’re not.

So, I wonder what the point was of Walmart making this investment. It has the money to take a gamble, but why play the game when you know you have a losing hand?

Goodbye, SkyMall. You were loved.

Oh, SkyMall, how will I miss you? I’ve passed many hours with you on an airplane, especially during those times when the airline lets us sit on the tarmac for hours. (How kind of them.)

How I’ve longed for the Garden Yeti and the various electronic gizmos that could populate my home.

You know, I almost bought this once.
You know, I almost bought this once.

Your declaration of bankruptcy means I’m going to have to live without you. I’ll have to quit you.

The news about SkyMall’s bankruptcy doesn’t come as that much of a surprise. The only surprise was that it lasted as long as it did.

As much as I coveted many of the items in it, I never bought one single thing from it. The magazine was purely entertainment for me as I flipped through the pages to see what new, crazy thing SkyMall has come up with.

The entertainment allure started waning once we could play/read/watch on our phones and tablets on the plane. There especially became no reason to look at it when we no longer had to shut down our electronic devices. SkyMall just sat there.

Of course, SkyMall couldn’t make any money by just being about entertainment. It had to prompt people to actually buy something from its collection. On that note, it always had a problem. The products in the magazine are basically impulse buys, and it is hard to buy when you’re in an airplane.

SkyMall knew this, which is why it recently tried to tell readers that they could take the magazine with them and the airline would replace it. But it probably had a better chance of prompting sales by being on QVC or something than having passengers actually take it home and buy something. Even that became harder with the influx of the Internet.

Despite all that, I lament the loss of SkyMall. I have fond memories of chuckling over the products with colleagues who were traveling with me.

Goodbye, SkyMall. You may not have been a financial success but you were truly loved by this frequent traveler.

The State of CNN

I tuned into Tuesday’s President’s State of the Union Address and found myself totally disappointed. Not in the speech itself, that value judgment depends completely on your political bent, but on the coverage.

For whatever reason, I tuned to CNN. I just wanted to witness the speech and then flip the TV off. This speech is as close the US gets to royal pageantry. And I enjoy seeing the Supreme Court Justices, Joint Chiefs and legislators in one room. I love it when the Sargent of Arms announces the President’s arrival. I don’t care if his name is Bush, Clinton, Reagan or Obama, it gives me a bit of a thrill.

I'm done listening to these blowhards.
I’m done listening to these blowhards.

However, I had to sit through a rehash of the exact words the President was going to speak…over and over again. And this rehash was before the speech. Good God, someone should do their homework and not take the easy way out. I guess I expected more from Wolf Blitzer.

The President had barely started his proclamations when CNN had a screen violator asking us all to vote— in real time on the President’s speech. That was it. I had to find a channel that was not part of the political spin that had sickened me in the past decade or so. I am not even sure where I re-tuned but it might have been C-Span or PBS. All I knew was that I wanted no commentary and no asinine opinions. I just wanted to hear it and see it for myself.

CNN had already ruined a good deal of the speech because it pre-told me several times that President Obama was going to pronounce that the worst of times was officially behind us and that “the State of the Union was strong.”

Why am I so offended by these live polls? Because I am a researcher as well as a brand strategist and I have a deep background in research. This is NOT research (read about real research here). This is a self-selecting sample that is in no way representative of the actual responses. What you end up with looks a lot like what spin doctors would produce. It is an inverse bell curve, overly sampled by people at the extremes. Only those who love it or hate it responds. This is why we never build brand messages on self-selecting methodologies or focus groups. It is just process gone wild.

So, CNN, MSNBC, FOX and the other entertainment channels that pretend to be news outlets— I’m done with you. The state of affairs that our nation finds itself in, one of severe disagreement and the inability to govern, might be in many ways a result of the so-called dialog incited by these media giants. Funny how much we mimic those news broadcasts.

I’ve got an idea, why don’t we make the next State of the Union address a reality show? We could comment on the suit selection and have it hosted by Ryan Seacrest.

The NFL brand damage continues: Deflategate

Boy, what a year for the NFL.

In case you have not heard, in the AFC Championship Game, the New England Patriots used 11 under-inflated balls throughout the course of their 45-7 blow out win over the Indianapolis Colts. An under-inflated ball allows the players to grip it easier, making it easier to throw and catch. In a sloppy, rainy game (which this was), this could be a huge advantage.

That grip seems pretty good.
That grip seems pretty good.

It can be debated how much of an advantage Deflategate may give a team, but the damage is nonetheless done. When you consider how many other issues the NFL has had this year, this is just another example of a league losing control of its brand.

Let’s be clear, the Patriots certainly cheated. But the worst part is that they got away with it. If the NFL really cared about its beloved shield, it would make sure there would be no possible way this could happen. For example, rather than have the teams each provide 12 balls, have the NFL provide all of the balls and not let either team see them or touch them until kickoff. Why would the NFL give a team an opportunity for an unfair advantage if it really cared?

(As an aside, as of 9:30am eastern, NFL.com has no mention of this situation anywhere on its site.)

As I have said before, the NFL seems to only care about something when it is forced to care about something. Good brands look for areas of weakness and fix them. Bad brands wait for areas of weakness to find them.