I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody - Bill Cosby
I had a meeting with a nice gentleman the other day who is working on the branding of his company. I was a bit alarmed at what he said. It was obvious that this person wasn't exactly clear as to what Branding means.
He is in the restaurant industry and said to me,
"We can't be sure the age of our customers or who they are so we can't decide on what kind of food we will serve, we just have to make sure that the food we serve always tastes great."
Well, yes and no. He can't decide what kind of customers he's going to get or their age. That's true... But if he thinks he is making things to please everyone, he certainly can't do that either. He's wrong there. Also, if he's thinking is that his only competition are other restaurants, then he is dead wrong on that issue too.
I'll explain why in a moment.
Just like the old adage that Bill Cosby made into his own above, this kind of thinking is a time proven key to failure. It astounds me that to this day, with all the many example around us on why this sort of thinking doesn't work anymore (please think: Apple, Google, famous fashion makers, etc.) When you try to please everyone, you please no one. This is obvious and has been repeated over and over again throughout history since the Industrial Revolution. The serve-all method is a sure-fire way to fail.
The success of corporations like Coca-Cola, Apple, Google and Mercedes Benz, just to name a few; proves that specialization is the key to success in this day and age.
The sushi-ya is good at what they do. "But they can't be sure of the customers or their age!" Should the sushi-ya now add Chinese Food, Hamburgers, Indian Curry, etc. to the menu? Of course not!
There are lessons around us everywhere. Let's look at the restaurant industry for an easy example. Quick name one highly successful and profitable family restaurant? Denny's? Nope. They are rumored to be on the verge of bankruptcy. How about in Japan? What others are there? There's Gusto and Jonathans and Skylark to name a few. All rumored to be nearing bankruptcy. Skylark did go belly up.
How about Royal Host and Sizzler? Well, the Royal Host chain isn't doing well, but is better off financially than Gusto and Jonathans... Why? They own Sizzler in Japan.
Sizzler?! Well, yes, folks, Sizzler is doing well in Japan, thank you. Why? They specialize. They realized years ago that they needed to set themselves apart from the others in their market space. Sizzler is a steak house and its steak meals start at over ¥3,190 a plate! (about $35.77). Sizzler may be considered a family restaurant but they are doing all they can to destroy that image and change to a higher end steak restaurant.
That's Branding. That's smart. That niche marketing.
Branding is doing thorough market research and then focusing on one part of the market.
The example above I gave where the boss said, "We can't be sure the age of our customers so we can't decide on what kind of food we will serve, we just have to make sure that the food we serve always tastes great." He is so completely wrong on that point that it makes me wonder if he has ever bothered to read any books on Branding and Marketing? Or, does he even understand the concept? I don't think so, that sort of thinking is like something out of the 1950s.
Let me get back to that point and prove to you why the other restaurants are not his only competition in this day and age and why trying to please everyone will fail with a simple example.
Imagine: It is your free time, say lunch time. You have one hour. There are so many things for you to do and to choose from on how you spend your one hour. You could go shopping or you could go to the gym, or for a walk, or to a coffee shop. You could go to a book store or meet friends, you could listen to music on your iPod or iPhone or Android or at a record store nearby. You could eat your own homemade lunch or, you could go to a restaurant. The choices are endless.
But, since it is lunch time, and you didn't bring your own lunch, you are hungry.
In your immediate area there are 5 family restaurants. There's the Denny's, the Skylark, Gusto, Jonathan's or Royal Host... Those restaurants have everything, but I'm sure you'll agree that even though they do have everything, everything is not particularly delicious.
Besides the above, there's also a plethora of choices. There's a McDonalds (Definitely a niche restaurant), a standing soba shop, a delicious sushi restaurant, Chinese food, Indian food, Korean Barbeque, Japanese lunch of baked fish and miso soup, Wendy's, Pizza, etc...
Now, it's not rocket science but most people would go to the specialty shops.
"How to triple your users and sales by doing just one thing..."
This movement of the market and people's tastes have dictated why this science of Branding is so very important.
Once again, take Apple Store for example. What if they thought that, "...there's all sorts of people who come here of all different ages. We need to please them!" Do you think Apple store would then start carrying Epson printers and ink cartridges? How about printer paper and office supplies? Should Apple start carrying Android phone or old-fashioned cell phones to please the older crowd? See? If one were to stop and think about this for just one second, they'd realize the absurdity of not specializing towards a niche market...
And, I'm sorry, food, music, fashions, etc. are all very broad topics. Anyone who thinks they can't be treated in a scientific fashion for Branding purposes simply just hasn't been paying attention.
For more on the Scientific Method and how Branding is a science, may I recommend: Brands and Brand Management - Contemporary Research Perspectives
From the publisher review: "Very few books exist that meaningfully integrate the rich and vast body of scientific research and theories that have accumulated in the field, relating to both traditional and contemporary topics in branding. This book accomplishes that task, with contributions from leading experts in the science of branding, national and international. The book should appeal to all students, faculty, and marketing professionals with an interest in research findings about brands, and an interest in deepening their understanding of how consumers view brands."
Thanks to Kevin Riley for the TED link.