Overruling the veto vote to extend the reach of your brand often backfires.
Think of Starbucks and how they added breakfast sandwiches to the menu. It gave the customer who was considering a breakfast sandwich a reason to go to the local store instead of McDonalds.
The problem was that it made the stores smell lousy and more like McDonalds, which is a problem when you’re trying to sell $4 cups of coffee, a decidedly un-Golden Arches price point.
Thank goodness wisdom prevailed and Starbucks has gone back to their roots (coffee) and nixed the breakfast sandwiches.
Now Baskin-Robbins is making the same mistake and trying to solve for the Least Common Denominator by adding soft-serve to their menu. Now B-R is going to move away from what they’re known for (an interesting array of quality, scooped ice cream flavors) and start to compete with everybody in soft serve. So is Baskin-Robbins quality scooped ice cream or cheap soft-serve? My guess is the answer in the minds of consumers will be “neither.”
It’s always tempting to solve for the “veto vote” LCD or corner case to increase sales. Unless that’s done very carefully, it results in a widening of the target audience beyond what is reasonable, addition of vaguely related products and an “everything to all people” branding effort. Not a great place to be and, like Starbucks, you tend to find yourself focusing back on your core business after you’ve confused the customers.
Always focus on your core audience and core business and expand away from them only after very careful consideration.
One way to think about your core business and core audience is to ask the typical targeting questions in reverse. Ask “who isn’t in your target audience?” and “what don’t you do?” I find those questions are often answered more easily than the same question asked in the affirmative and with more clarity.
Summary and takeaways
- Be wary of “everything to everybody”. Trying to negate the “veto vote” or adding product features to address a corner case are warning signs. Tread lightly.
- Understand what you don’t do. It can help focus your marketing efforts on the right audience and right target markets and cause you to put aside distractions to your branding efforts.
What do you think? Will Baskin-Robbins succeed with soft serve ice cream? Are there other solutions to their growth problems?