• 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

Honey Nut Cheerios Healthy Hearts

Honey Nut Cheerios hits a home run

Honey Nut CheeriosHoney Nut Cheerios is one of General Mill’s flagship brands. The cereal market is in a death spiral (read our in-depth market study on the cereal and breakfast category here) as tastes and consumer patterns change. Breakfast cereal used to be the staple food at breakfast tables across the globe but times have changed.

Honey Nut CheeriosThe venerable brands of my youth (Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, Kellogg’s Cornflakes, Post Raisin Bran, Wheaties and even Cheerios) are hard at work trying to expand the market.

Time was all of the advertising dollars was directed at kids. Even Wheaties (the breakfast of champions) was targeted at getting kids to prefer the cereal over other choices. Today, more and more brands are simply trying to expand the traditional audience by including adults in the advertising too. Most to little effect.

The reason for the failure is that brand permission does not come by simply featuring the target audience in the communication. You need to have the target audience say to themselves, “I want to be that.”

Enter Honey Nut Cheerios

The Cheerios parent brand has been talking heart healthy for many years now. There seems to be no dissenting voices in science that there are REAL benefits to oats (oat bran in particular) in the health and vitality of the human heart. But the message of heart healthy has done very little to expand the category and, while one of the more successful rebrands in the cereal market, Cheerios has continued to disappoint despite outperforming many others in the category.

But the Healthy Hearts Stay Young campaign may be a real game changer.

The commercial has the mandatory adult and child but the similarity ends here. The spots are an exuberant and charming combination of energy and brand without the usual feature of focusing only on the product. The spots are mesmerizing and are so well produced that you find yourself stopping on the commercial when channel surfing. The main spot is THAT good. The supporting spots are less powerful because it is the adult in the main commercial that is most appealing.

Stop the other branded slop.

General Mills Logo Honey Nut CheeriosThis campaign truly builds brand preference. I want to be THAT and I’m sure I am not alone. The precocious child is overshadowed by the talented adult and it is her movement and agility that holds sway in the spot. I simply can’t take my eyes off her and even see the little girl as a distraction. Despite the lack of traditional brand identification, I remembered this commercial as being all about Honey Nut Cheerios. It worked.

Scrap the silly honey bee, General Mills. He (or she) may be cute but the commercials are all about YOU and the natural ingredients. You took the bold step of making your prospects feel that they want to be part of the club and we don’t need any rational reasons why your honey came from bees. To my knowledge, all honey comes from bees.

A few words on Kellogg’s


Burger King should just change its name already

The internet has been abuzz the last few days with Burger King’s unleashing of their new menu item Mac n’ Cheetos. This new food item (and I use that term loosely) is a congealed mess of processed macaroni and cheese with a deep fried, Cheetos-flavored breading. This comes on the heels of some franchisees unleashing the Wopperito not to mention Doritos Loaded and chicken fries.

Burger King
Mac ‘n Cheetos from Burger King just make no sense.

Rather than menu experiments, these food mashups are becoming the norm for Burger King. How can you be the king of burgers selling fried mac & cheese and chicken strips?

It is pretty obvious to everyone other than those running Burger King that the brand has really lost its way. I can’t even figure out what it is the chain is trying to do anymore with its brand. I assume its hope is that the Mac n’ Cheetos will drive people to the restaurants in hopes they will buy something else. But at $2.50 for 5 pieces, if you add a burger and a drink to that you are likely paying $10 or more for a single meal. I can think of a number of burger places where I would rather spend $10.

Where the brand of Burger King stands now.

The reality at Burger King is that this brand is just flapping around in the breeze with no direction or vision. That is, unless BK changes its name.

Burger King has fallen so far from where it once was. Given its recent menu introductions, it should change its name to something like Fair Food. It has become a restaurant of gimmicks, akin to the latest craze at the State Fair. Perhaps we will soon see fried butter and turkey legs.

Brand is never about a gimmick as, once the gimmick wears off, you have to find another one in a never-ending cycle. Good brands know that, to be powerful and incite loyalty, they have to be fiercely consistent, true and unfailing. A brand should be more like a lighthouse rather than a glow stick.

Unfortunately for Burger King, it is looking more and more like a fair stand instead of taking a stand for its brand.


The Pat Summitt Brand

The Brand of Pat Summitt

Pat SummittPat Summitt knew, but you might not know, that many many years ago I owned a scouting service for Division 1 NCAA basketball programs. Women’s Division 1 NCAA basketball programs.

I was privileged to meet and get to know many of the basketball coaches of the day in a sport just beginning to feel its oats with Title 9 funding.

This was so many years ago that Pat Summitt had yet to win her first NCAA title. In my second year in business, that all changed and Pat’s Lady Vols cut down the nets. I was there for that game.

I will leave the tributes to others and there will be many well deserved accolades. She was as gracious in private as she was tenacious in coaching (and as a player years before). I don’t claim to have known her well but just meeting with Coach and spending a short time with her was an unforgettable moment.

She was legendary before she was at the pinnacle of her sport and EVERYONE knew it was just a matter of time before Pat’s teams dominated her sport. I know now why that was. It was the Pat Summitt brand.

Joining the Vols

To become part of that brand, to have the Tennessee Lady Vols logo on your jersey MEANT you were a relenteless and hard as nails competitor who worked tirelessly to be the best you could be.

Pat Summitt Tennessee LogoPlayers improved and grew under Coach Summitt’s tutelage. But she also recruited and won better athletes. The good ones wanted to be part of that brand. No matter how great they were in high school, they believed they were going to a special place and were going to be coached by greatness. The brand was a reflection of Pat Summitt.

What did that mean to the athletes? Everything.

Why the Pat Summitt brand was so powerful

Pat SummittThe basketball court was a microcosm of the world of Pat Summitt. She believed in the transformative power of PRESSURE. There was the pressure to become better. There was the pressure to eliminate mistakes. There was the pressure to be a complete human being and there was the legendary pressure of her man-to-man defense.

Everyone was subjected to her pressure. Especially the poor NCAA victims of her teams rise to greatness.

Pat Summitt was indeed a brand with a capital B. It meant identifying yourself as a player with that brand. It was your identity and it was lived with great dignity and charm by the woman who created it. She did not invent it.. Its just who she was.

Rest in peace Pat Summitt. You are missed.

John Wooden’s Wisdom

John Wooden was a marketing genius


How Netflix has killed the sequel blockbuster

The present-day adage is that there are no original thoughts anymore. That is, if something has been done or created today, there was probably a template for it earlier.

I tend to agree, although not to the extent that many do. Variations on a theme can still be original and, especially in art forms, there is a constant evolution of what has come before.

But it seems that movie audiences are screaming for more originality. Many recent so-called blockbusters have been sequels, ranging from Alice Through the Looking Glass, X-Men: Apocalypse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and many more.

And they are bombing.

Netflix
Audiences are rejecting the blockbuster sequel in favor of Netflix.

Even a sure thing like Independence Day: Resurgence had a disappointing opening over the weekend. (Note: There are always exceptions that prove the rule. Finding Dory is doing well.)

It would be easy – and probably correct – to pile on the movie studios who have become so dependent on the gigantic sequel blockbuster that execs are being fired right and left after those movies failed. (Even Steven Spielberg warned against this a few years ago.)

But that’s always been a fair criticism. Like many businesses, the movie business is a copycat category.

Netflix has taught us to expect more than the generic.

What is interesting to me is that audiences are rejecting these paper-mache films. And I have a theory. You can blame it on Netflix.

Some recent reports have suggested that the original content on Netflix is more popular than many had thought. Netflix, because it is not beholden to advertisers, does not release viewing numbers but its approach seems to be working. Each individual show – or even movie – that Netflix releases on its platform is not geared to appeal to the masses. Netflix’s strategy is to segment its audience so it has something for everyone, but not one thing for everyone.

Netflix
Netflix has changed what we expect from our entertainment

It knows that few, if any, of its shows will appeal to everyone. The strategy is that if you’re into at least one of its shows because it appeals to your individual taste, you will stay a subscriber or become a new one. In essence, Netflix is producing the middle-cost production that was once the foundation of Hollywood.

Therefore, if Netflix is the dominant viewing platform of this era, then audiences have been taught to seek out things that are less generic. This is why the big TV networks are struggling and the major sequels are losing steam at the cinema.

The trend in the market means that movie studios will have to adjust, as their once-dependable staples no longer fit the appetites of a Netflix-watching audience.

Companies across all sectors are often slow to adapt to changes and it often takes an outsider (like Netflix) to take advantage of changing attitudes.

I think that’s what has happened here. Experts all over are trying to predict what viewing will be like in the next decade or so, but it seems the biggest content providing companies (the studios) are the ones who understand the new audience the least.


Brexit succession means nobody wins

The unthinkable happened with Brexit

Brexit is racismBrexit was a bloodless civil war. We have come along way (or have we?). Time was an obscure Archduke could be assassinated in Bosnia and the whole world would be dragged into a global war later called the First World War in history books.

In 1861, the United States of America began a bloody struggle to decide the legality of succession. We called that fight the Civil War and it took four blood soaked years and millions of lives to settle. In the end, the decision was made that no state was sovereign enough to resign its place in the United States.

Shelby Foote famously said that, before the Civil War, people said the United States “Is” and after the Civil War they said The United States “Are”.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom VOTED to leave the European Union. In our Twitter world, the vote was shortened to Brexit. It is an example of how blind nationalism can cloud judgment and how people will emotionally vote for things that in the long term are not in their own best interest. I wonder if Scotland wishes it had another shot at their historic vote to remain in the United Kingdom? Scotexit never became a word.

Brexit means?

Brexit winsI think a great deal of world stability will be shaken by this vote. I can see further troubles stirring in Northern Ireland again. I believe the uncertainty in the world’s monetary systems will shake rattle and roll the financial markets for a while as the global community tries to discount this tsunami of change. Everything we have come to rely on in this global world has been challenged.

But the reason I write this is because NO ONE doubts the RIGHT of the UK to secede (not to be confused in any way with succeed).

In the US, we thought the illegality of succession was decided and written in blood 150 years ago. Americans believe we have a corner on the market when it comes to freedom and liberty. We are wrong.

Freedom of self-determination was just exercised in Europe to an extent we can’t even fathom in the US. Had this RIGHT been self evident, I would be penning this blog in the Confederate States of America because I live in North Carolina—a state that lost 1 out of every 4 casualties at Gettysburg  during the Civil War.

To me, it does not matter if you think the American Civil War was fought over state’s rights or slavery. The impetus for the temporary dissolution of the United States in the late 1800’s was due to a racist issue.

I think the same is true for Brexit.

Racist underpinnings

I don’t believe it was so much an economic issue as it was over a war on immigration. The UK did not want Europe dictating immigration policy. They just don’t want THEM settling in the UK any more.  Think about it, the UK never surrendered their currency to the Euro. The Pound  Sterling remained.

BrexitSo much for economics driving succession.

I find Brexit a sad move. Not for all the obvious reason of a common market and ease of travel. I find it sad that bigotry wins anywhere and under any circumstances.

You can have your DNA tested for just a couple of dollars (or Euros or pounds) these days. It points to your REAL ancestry.

Funny, the differences are very small. We all began in Africa and are very much the same. Only the adopted and insignificant drapery of religious preference and favorite cuisine separates us all one from another.


Bing It and Uncle Buck

Bing it. I mean Google it.

Go ahead and Bing it. Sounds a bit odd doesn’t it? Yet that is exactly the phrase used in the ABC Television Series Uncle Buck. Pretty obvious that Microsoft paid heavily for the endorsement. So heavily that its product placement was imbedded in the script and not just on some cereal box sitting on a kitchen table.

Uncle buck. Bing it
The TV ripoff based on the John Candy classic

The idea of Googling something has become part of our everyday vernacular. We say it even if we use Bing as our search engine. It’s an expression based upon usage that arose form preference but means less than it did years ago when search engines were in a war for our loyalty and usage.

You know how I feel about Google— that faceless and omnipresent tyrant of what we all see on the internet. No one would like to see BING and the idea of Bing succeed more than me. But I am pretty certain that ship has already sailed. Google won and we all lost.

My issue is not with Microsoft trying to promote its Bing search engine. It has both the right and obligation to do so. My issue is with the way in which it is grasping at straws.

Bing it does not roll off the tongue

It feels so unnatural to say “I’ll Bing it” that is screams of being contrived and smells very badly of being anything but authentic. Underdogs (imagine that I am actually calling Microsoft an underdog) need to be jarring to get their message and meaning across. We tell all of our clients that the price of clarity is the risk of offense but blatant marketing is not just counter productive as it is destructive.

No one watching the show and hearing the words. (By the way this is not the first time Microsoft has placed its Bing product in media using this convention. Bing was also featured prominently in Amazing Spider-Man.) It literally SCREAMS Madison Avenue and, as a result, feels contrived and unimportant.

All we feel when hearing the words is being offended that anyone would think we are so stupid as to believe the idea. This self-definition is the heart of brand equity and is exactly what Bing wants to avoid… unimportance.

Bing it on Uncle Buck
The TV rehash of the John Candy Classic

Bing needs to relaunch its brand and revisit its algorithms. It needs to design real differences between itself and Google in a way that meets our needs in a superior manner. This requires more than just an interface. It needs to think about how Google is failing us (like bringing paid URLs to the top of the search) and provide content legitimately based upon our search criteria.

Google can’t do this because it has built a model on this revenue. Bing is just a pimple on Microsoft’s butt and it could more than match its current revenue through acquisition of customers and selling ads on the page rather than purchased and favored search results pretending to be to be important.

Read more on Google, Bing and search engines below:

Bing in 2013

Google as a monopoly

My fickle relationship with Google


KFC goes from creepy to forgettable

I wrote some time ago that the new direction KFC took with its impersonations of Colonel Sanders was creepy. (Even Darrell Hammond, who played the first iteration of the fake Colonel Sanders, is flummoxed.) While the ads continue to be more of a joke than using any kind of brand equity, its new ad bothers me more than the others.

First, the ad fails to convince me that I should drop everything I am doing and run to KFC. The ad fails to convince me that KFC employees are somehow better trained or will go the extra mile in their quest to serve the best fried chicken.

The KFC ad was filmed deliberately but mistakes still happen.

The ad is plain silly but a note of caution here. When filming an ad (or a TV show or a movie), everything is deliberate. If you’ve ever been on a set, you see that each set piece, camera movement, piece of dialogue and action is planned out in advance.

In this ad, about 20 seconds in, KFC and its ad agency, the vaulted Weiden+Kennedy, have placed a microwave in the upper right corner.

KFC
The new KFC ad is silly, forgettable and has a small misjudgment.

The song is about how the KFC cooks make their chicken the hard way, breaded by hand with the “Colonel quality guarantee.” And then there is this ridiculous scene of a cook running uphill on a treadmill trying to grab a bucket of chicken with a microwave in the background. What about that conveys the idea of the hard way or freshness, as the ad purports? It was not placed there by accident, so what’s the point?

To be honest, I’m not sure many viewers will even notice the oven because the ad itself is forgettable. I also know that microwaves are used all the time but to have one so clearly in view in a commercial about the freshness and quality of food is a miscalculation.

Powerful brands have to care about everything. Nike, Widen+Kennedy’s most famous client, would have never let the agency get away with this. And neither should have KFC.


My fickle relationship with Google

Consider this — certain brand preferences are so rooted in us that it feels natural as breathing when we use one of these rooted products.

When I buy peanut butter, it’s always going to be Jif. When I buy something online, my go to is Amazon. When I buy spices, they will be McCormick.

And when I search online, I use Google.

Google
Why is Google right for searching but not for being in your home?

Thing is, I recently wrote a blog blasting Google Home. For those that don’t know, the Home is Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo: a stand alone, voice-activated speaker. It will play music you request, complete tasks rooted in its interface (like turning off your lights), and answer any trivial question you wish to ask it.

I remain steadfast in my claims about Google Home. I still don’t trust the tech giant because I feel like it is always collecting and storing information on me and housing it in its servers.

Surely, I am not paranoid to suggest that. Right?

But then my mind comes back to this:

Google is unrivaled when it comes to search engines. 

Admit it. It’s Google and everyone else.

When I find someone using Bing or Yahoo!, I feel pity for them. Don’t you feel the same? I wouldn’t be surprised if these noobs still had a Hotmail account and frequented AOL from a dial-up modem.

So then, if I don’t trust the intentions of the market leader, why the heck is it my preferred default search engine?

Easy.

It always has the answers I need. It provides me the most relatable search options without the clutter. What’s more, it’s smart.

Therefore, being smart means using the Google search engine as I need it. It also means recognizing its power and not inviting it into my home imbedded in a speaker that’s always on. That’s not smart.