• 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

Facebook Censorship

Is Facebook guilty of censorship?

fear of rebrandingI had not really considered the idea of Facebook censorship until yesterday. I write a blog almost everyday on marketing, branding, social issues and persuasion.

Occasionally, I will boost the post on Facebook to target an audience that I think might have an interest in the topic covered.

Facebook censcorship
Facebook’s advertising rules

I don’t do this regularly but often enough that I am familiar with Facebook rules .

Occasionally I have a blog (Facebook calls them an ad) turned down. Is that rejection a form of Facebook censorship? I had not thought so. Usually it is because the image I have included includes text.

Facebook Censorship
Rejected from boosting my blog

Facebook is stringent on not allowing a blogger like myself to sneak messages past its screeners by including the message as text within an image. This makes sense to me because images are impossible to search for messages in language. They are just not searchable as text.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about persuasion.

I used as my example discussing politics and religion on Facebook. I was compelled to write the blog, oddly enough, because one of my Facebook friends posted a political statement about one of the candidates for President and this friend immediately got comments from former school classmates who vehemently disagreed with his assertion in the post. I started to think about what I know about persuasion and how Facebook is a poor venue for trying to affect behavior.

Facebook Censorship seems self-serving

Facebook censorshipDo me a favor and read yesterday’s blog. Then tell me how it transgresses on any of the rules for boosting a post on Facebook? I think it was only guilty of speaking to the limits of Facebook posts and why, as a venue, Facebook friends should probably avoid posts that profess a view on politics or religion.

Why? Because your opinions won’t change anyone’s opinion. It is, in research terms, a self-selected study, meaning only those who adamantly agree with you or fiercely disagree with you will take the time to comment or share. Others may throw up a respectful LIKE, but I doubt they ever read past the first sentence. A nominal like is a passing acknowledgment that they follow you.

In the spirit of full disclosure

Facebook censorshipI’m not a huge fan of Facebook. I find that it causes me to spend way to much time spying into the shenanigans and happenings of friends and acquaintances. I have found it very useful to reconnect with folks I have lost contact with over the years— childhood friends, old classmates, co-workers from another time and the like. But I don’t need Facebook to find out what is going on with my close friends and immediate family.

I know those things the old fashioned way. I talk to them and ask. In many ways, Facebook gives me an artificial sense of intimacy with people I hardly know any more. I think I know them much better than I really do. It can cause us to refrain from the real connection that comes with a phone call or visit. We THINK we are connected.

Will Facebook Censorship block this blog as well?

This is my real reason for writing this. Will Facebook allow me to express criticism of the pseudo connection that we lie to ourselves as having through Facebook? At this point, I have no clue. I even resubmitted yesterday’s blog to Facebook and asked why it was denied. So far, I know as much about Facebook’s thinking on this as I do the REAL emotional experiences of my Facebook FRIENDS.


Facebook Politics. Keep it private.

Facebook Politics are NEVER persuasive

Facebook Politics
Trump or Clinton or Sanders?

Facebook politics (posts about political identification) seem to be more and more commonplace today. I’m not so different from you. I have deeply felt political loyalties. However, if you are like me at all, you just cringe to see opposing views posted on Facebook by your friends. However, I don’t cringe when my friends post messages that agree with my bent. What’s going on here?

Its easy to dismiss this personal hypocrisy and blame it on the idea that we all Facebook Politicslike it when others agree with us.

I think that is true, for the most part. But it feels to me that we get our nose out of joint most often when our social media acquaintances post confident opinions on religion or politics.

Other topics don’t seem to bother me too much. I read them but they never ruffle my feathers. Facebook Politics and Facebook religion… well those are different beers altogether.

Facebook is an interesting and timely example of personal branding

For many of us, our Facebook page is the banner of our private brands. We use it to tell the world where we have visited, what we have eaten, what we have seen, who we love and.. what we believe (insert politics or religion here).

I’m no different. A search of my Facebook page reveals posts from my business’s blog, trips I have enjoyed with my wife, restaurant meals that were (sometimes) memorable, pictures of my family and grandchildren and very little more. I try not to post things that express my views on religion and try (sometimes I fail) to ignore political posts.

Facebook PoliticsWhy? Is it because I look at Facebook as a branding tool? Is it because I find posts from others on these topics occasionally offensive? I wish it were so simple.

The truth is that I avoid posts that talk about politicians, politics and religion because I am a student of persuasion. It’s part and parcel of what I do for a living. As a brand strategist, my goal is to position brands in a way that they become persuasive to prospects (and at the same time reassuring to customers).

Facebook politics as a focus seems futile to me. I know how difficult it is to change someone’s mind and I use every tool available to me as a professional brand guy to make the effort successful. I utilize research, competitive and market analyses, switching triggers and a projectable research based understanding of beliefs.

I know that the best way to change a behavior is to align a brand message with an existing belief held by the target audience you want to influence. When done with aplomb, you are not changing behavior insomuch a realigning a behavior with the self-definition of the target audience.

This process works because we are all prisoners of our belief systems. What we BELIEVE to be true (note that it does not have to be true, just believed) always controls our behaviors because it creates the needs and wants that control all of our actions.

Brand is self-identification

Coke is a major player in consumer packaged goods
Are you a Coke?

Usually, this self-identification is general—it forms a philosophy of our lives that gives us personal meaning and eliminates internal conflicts between what we do and what we believe.

Human beings naturally seek refuge in agreement and are repulsed by conflict. When you engage in a behavior that seems alien to your belief systems I can pretty much guarantee that you will eventually cease that behavior. We may be emotionally attached to Coca-Cola but we are not a COKE.

Religion and Politics are a different story. Depending on your bent, you ARE a Christian, Muslim, Atheist Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain. You ARE a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist or Libertarian.

These are the fiber of your belief systems. Rarely are they challenged (as adults) without a catastrophic event.

What this means is that we form attachments to these ideas WITHOUT cognitive introspection. They are emotional beliefs not rational ones.

I know from commercial experience that ALL purchase decisions are emotional choices. They are not cognitive. We may believe we have rational reasons for the things we buy but they most often are rationalizations of an emotional choice. We back-fill the rational to defend the emotional precisely because we can’t abide internal conflicts.

An exercise in futility

Hillary Clinton LogoSo I ask you the question I ask myself, why post your religious views or political polemics on Facebook? Is Facebook politics worthy of your time and effort?

Nothing you say could possibly change someone’s mind because rational arguments, from either side of an issue, will not change anyone a jot. It is an exercise in futility.

A mentor of mine once told me that communication without purpose is at its best unconstructive and at its worst destructive. I think that has never sounded more true to me than hearing about Bernie, Donald or Hillary on Facebook.

We all are where we are and all we risk is offending those who do no agree with our own beliefs with a ZERO chance of changing someone’s mind. I actually believe that it makes others more entrenched in their beliefs. It’s human nature after all.


The UCLA Under Armour deal is hypocritical

UCLA and Under Armour just announced a shoe and apparel deal worth about $280 million over the next 15 years. The deal covers all sports at UCLA and is the largest shoe deal in the history of the NCAA, eclipsing last year’s $252 million deal between Nike and Ohio State.

The UCLA Under Armour deal raises this truth: colleges and universities continue to make money on the backs of student athletes who play and attend school but receive nothing.

Looking at the UCLA Under Armour more closely.

Sure, people will argue that student athletes receive a free education but even that is misleading. Did you know that the NCAA only has six so-called head count scholarships? Men’s football and basketball with 85 and 13 scholarships respectively and women’s basketball, tennis, gymnastics and volleyball (15, 8, 12, and 12, respectively) are the only ones on that list.

UCLA Under Armour
The UCLA Under Armour deal exposes the hypocrisy of the NCAA.

In these sports, the scholarships are full-ride scholarships, although they never cover the total cost of attendance. In all other sports, NCAA only allows equivalency scholarships which means the value of a full ride can be split up among a number of players.

So, you have a whole host of student athletes that are not getting full ride scholarships yet are required to wear Under Armour gear. Because of the UCLA Under Armour deal, they are required to be good ambassadors for the Under Armour brand even though they are not even being compensated – not even with a full scholarship in many cases.

The school is making money on the deal at the expense of the student-athlete.

The NCAA brand has failed in its brand mission and has failed to live up to its core values. It has made a whole string of decisions that were meant to be for the student-athlete but only make the universities more money, making the large programs larger and the smaller programs less competitive.

If it’s all about the money, NCAA, then pay the athletes. If it’s about maintaining what you purportedly say you believe, then don’t let universities profit on the backs of their student-athletes.


Google Home is a scary proposition

I don’t always trust Google.

Let me take that back. I don’t trust Google at all.

Call it paranoia, fear or any other similar word you can find in the thesaurus. But a company that wants to store all my data is a company in which I am leery.

I am apprehensive of ever signing up for a Gmail account or using Google Docs or any of the company’s free programs. Free isn’t really free when it means risking your privacy, is it?

That’s why when Google announced Google Home last week, the red sirens blew up in the back of my head.

Google Home is “Always On.” That’s a scary idea. 

In case you don’t know what Google Home is, it’s Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo. If you don’t know what the Echo is, it’s a voice activated speaker. When signaled with the spoken word “Alexa,” it awakens and provides an answer to your command or question. You can ask Alexa to play a certain song, what the temperature is going to be tomorrow, or anything else you could think. It’s a snazzy device to have around the house.

Google Home
This Google Home device scares me more than the Amazon Echo.

There was a concern that Amazon could listen to what you were doing at any given time. But Amazon has held steady that the device can only listen to you when you clearly give it a command. And it doesn’t always get those commands right, so I am not worried. Plus, you can also turn off the microphone at any time. I trust Amazon’s brand enough to believe that to be true.

Yet, I don’t trust Google.

Think about this. The company that controls 90% of all web search traffic and collects all of your data each and every time you use it has now constructed a device that already knows your browsing history and can potentially listen to your interactions at home with “Always On” technology.

I’ll give that a giant, “No thank-you.”

The power of Google is relentless. And I’m sure the Google Home device is revolutionary. But knowing Google is behind it means I’ll never have one in my home.


The Bayer Monsanto merger needs your attention

The world of crop protection, if you’re not aware, is both important and cutthroat. And it’s something of which we should all pay attention.

There are a handful of main competitors who are either constantly battling the EPA or fighting environmentalists along side the regulatory agency, depending on your bent.

Bayer Monsanto
Growing crops is about to get a whole lot more expensive.

It’s also a changing industry. The main players, such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer, have long been under fire because their lead products were pesticides. Those chemicals raised the hackles of environmental groups and have spawned thousands (if not millions) of papers, editorials and books (started by Rachel Carson’s seminal book, Silent Spring.)

Today, however, those manufacturers are increasing their investment in seeds, which are genetically modified to increase crop growth and stave off infection from pests and disease.

That is why Bayer is offering $62 billion for Monsanto, the largest seed producer in the US, for a Bayer Monsanto merger I can see happening.

The pitfalls of the Bayer Monsanto merger to you.

There are positive and negative outcomes of this proposed merger, starting with the benefit the companies themselves would receive. The battlefield now is over combined resources, especially worldwide, to increase research and development, and also to enter into developing markets.

The power of the seed market is that the next worldwide shortage is promising to be food. The population of the Earth is increasing but the amount of farmland is not. The only way to meet the world’s future needs is to make crops more robust and stir up agricultural production in those developing countries.

Leaving aside the potential negative effect of genetically modified seeds, the effect on the farmer – and the US economy – is potentially deadly. Mergers are becoming the norm in crop protection, with Dow and DuPont joining forces last year and rumors of Chinese companies interested in Syngenta still circulating.

Mergers mean less competition and less competition means higher prices.

Keeping track of the mergers in crop protection is not usually top of mind for consumers but they are important developments to notice. Seeds are seen as a healthier alternative to pesticides, but more research to needs to be done.

But sticker shock will soon be coming to your nearby grocery store. In the US, we take for granted what is available and what food costs. However, a Bayer Monsanto merger will change all that. Prepare to spend more of your dollar at the grocery store.


Russia. Olympic Doping

Olympic doping is a symptom not a cause

Olympic doping "I'm shocked"Olympic doping? Remember when Captain Renault (Claude Raines from the 1942 movie Casablanca) famously said “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

I’m afraid that is exactly my sarcastic response to implications that the Russian Olympic team doped during the Sochi Olympics and that that coverup was systemic to the Russian state.

Are you shocked? I doubt it.

However, I don’t think this stops with the Russian team. Let’s face facts: Doping and cheating in athletics is a global epidemic that, just like the Spanish Flu of 1918, it respects no boarders and infects the entire globe.

Does Olympic doping bother me?

Lance Armstrong and Olympic dopingYes. But I’m not appalled. Unlike almost all of my friends, I have given up professional sports (and the Olympics are PROFESSIONAL sports) and I am fast losing interest in intercollegiate sports as well. Did my malaise start with Lance Armstrong? Not really. It started when it occurred to me that athletic competition was becoming a religion where winning was embraced as a modern form of spiritual redemption.

The problem is the wealth that comes along with winning and, to borrow a term from Donald Trump, “trust me” fame is a form of wealth.

The cult of athletics is not one of humanity’s finer traits. It clouds judgment, suspends introspection and deludes accomplishment. Fans identify with their teams so completely that they ignore the facts that even in intercollegiate athletics, athletes are not the representative of the schools for which they compete. The student athlete for the University of Kentucky’s basketball team has as much in common with the students and grads of that university as I do with an NFL athlete. By the way, don’t think I am ragging on the Wildcats (although they are top-of-mind with me). You could insert almost any university brand in the sentence including North Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma… etc. Only Temple University is exempt (check my bio).

Winning is all that matters

In a global culture where winning is a form of self-identification, it is not surprising that we have had scandals in major league baseball, football and cycling. The personal identification with the Manchester United’s of the world is overwhelming but that blind ignorance pales compared to the xenophobic nationalism of the Olympics. Do you think only the Russians cheated?

Olympic DopingMy God, this past week I heard allegations that the Kenyan long distance runners have been doping. You know these super humans? They are 6’4” (legs are 5’ of that height) and they weigh 58 kilos. Rumor has it that they have the hollow bones found only in birds so as to be lighter on their feet. These are the guys and gals that finish the marathon before any of those running the half-marathon come even close to the finish line.

As I think about it, I don’t watch much in the way of sports anymore because I don’t want to think of myself as a fool. Someone duped into thinking everything is on the up and up and athletic accomplishment comes solely from hard work and dedication. I’m not duped because everyone seems to be doped.

Earlier blogs about athletics and the Olympics

With the Olympics, NBC earned gold. Without it, struggling for bronze.

Lance Armstrong finally admits the truth about the NFL

 


Retail in a nutshell: Macy’s

Last week, Macy’s reported that same-store sales fell…again. This marks the fifth time in a row Macy’s has reported a negative number. The retailer cited declines in traffic, competitive pressures and a consumer base that is cautious (isn’t that just a restatement of the first thing they cited?).

Macy's
The problems at Macy’s are systematic of the retail space.

There are major deep-seated problems in the retail sector. When Macy’s cites traffic declines and increased competition, it is simply stating the effects of a larger problem – what does Macy’s (or most other department stores, for that matter) mean to the consumer?

Apparently not as much as Macy’s would like.

Macy’s was once a meaningful brand.

There was a time when Macy’s actually meant something. It was wildly successful at the turn of the century when Macy’s moved to Herald Square in New York City. By 1924, it was known as the world’s largest store. Through its successes were in a single store, it began to purchase other department stores in large metropolitan areas. As Macy’s profits grew, its desire to expand grew. Today, it is the nation’s largest department retailer.

There is meaning in scarcity. Humans innately place value on it. Scarcity denotes exclusivity. For a long time that is what the perception of Macy’s was – exclusive and scarce. It was a destination. But as it grew, those values dissipated with each retail chain it acquired. It became less scarce and less exclusive. Today, Macy’s stores are everywhere (870 stores) and each is just another department store.

As customers move to other channels and specialty retailers, there are fewer customers shopping in department stores in general. Since there are very few department stores that mean anything, there are fewer shoppers to go around. So yeah, Macy’s, you hit the nail on the head. Declines in traffic and increased competition are the reasons for the disappointing sales.

The problem for Macy’s is that it can’t stem the tide of declining sales by trying to out retail other retailers. That simply would degrade the Macy’s brand further. Macy’s has to rethink something it is probably very uncomfortable examining. Its brand.


The Amazon perishable effort will succeed

It’s not just retailers that are threatened by Amazon. Now, supermarkets will be too.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the online retail giant is slated to offer a new line of private-label brands, including perishable foods.

Amazon perishable
The Amazon perishable goods initiative will work.

As the report elaborated, these goods will first be available to Prime members as another nice perk to add to the $99 a year membership. (Thank goodness I have one.)

What’s more, the Amazon perishable initiative will join forces with brands like Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime, and Mama Bear. Doing so will allow the company to offer cooking oil, vitamins, coffee, tea, spices and nuts.

The Amazon perishable effort will succeed because of its brand.

While I have only once bought perishable food from Amazon — I had an unyielding craving for coconut covered cashews — I bought a top of the line brand and I ended spending a bit more than I wanted.

Now, overspending on select brands doesn’t have to be the case. I can choose an Amazon select brand for a fraction of the cost and feel satisfied with my purchase. Because of the trust I have in Amazon, I have the confidence that the product will be of quality. A hunch that I am not alone in that thinking.

Granted, the offerings are slim for the moment, but so was the Amazon Music catalog when it first began, and now it’s one of my favorites to frequent.

It’s a known fact. If your desire is to influence preference and increase market share, then it is a given that you must have a better understanding of your target audiences. And the Amazon perishable move is a perfect example of that awareness.

How many times have you thought how nice it would be to order your food from Amazon, have it shipped and be done with it? I have a lot. This is Amazon dipping its toe in the water of that reality. Before we know it, this Amazon Produce (UK based) and Amazon Fresh (select US cities) will be available for all of us as one entity. When that occurs, supermarkets had better watch out.