Monday, May 9, 2011

What's the Most Dangerous Word in Brand?

What does Boulevard Brewing Company, a Kansas City-based micro brewery, now have in common with Coors and Swisher Motor Company, a client of mine in the late 1990s?

All three are examples of the most dangerous word in brand.

Coors did it with Rocky Mountain Spring Water. Swisher, a mower company, with barbeque grills. Where are those products today?

Now, Boulevard Brewing has introduced Pale Ale Mustard.

When you start adding products and services outside the scope of what your brand stands for in the minds of customers and prospects, history shows you will diminish what makes you special to them, and they'll no longer have a compelling reason to pick you over a competitor. You also open the door for a more focused rival to come in and steal your market share.

Who can you trust more for a GPS wrist unit, Garmin or Timex?

Not only does this cause confusion in the marketplace, it creates chaos inside the organization.

"Didn't I sign up to make specialty beers? Why am I now making mustard? Am I working for Boulevard Brewing Company or Frenches?

Once a brand unravels internally it inevitably spirals externally.

And why did the founders of Boulevard Brewing start the company? Was it their passion for micro beers or condiments?

The motivation behind Pale Ale Mustard is clear: Greed. The irony is that history also shows us that the key to successfully growing your brand and profits is just the opposite: Shrink it.

General Motors isn't emerging from banktrupcy and turning around because it's offering more car lines. It contracted brands and is further distinguishing them from one another. Conversely, expanding it's menu and changing it's name from Boston Chicken to Boston Market drove it straight into banktrupcy.

You see, brands are about specialization, and you can only achieve it through focus. A specialist can command more than a generalist. Whole Foods can charge a lot more for cereal than Piggly Wiggly, Victoria's Secret twice as much for a bra than Macy's and Starbucks $5 for my sugar free vanilla latte with soy milk this morning.

Back to the Boulevard...I find it hard to believe customers were knocking down its doors begging them to make beer AND condiments. I also find it hard to believe that people will line up for tours to see where they make the mustard.

So, what is the most dangerous word in brand? It's actually the word found at the end of brand, and the one in all caps in the last paragraph. It's AND!

Mini Cooper can't make small AND big cars. Victoria's Secret can't be lingerie AND business suits. Boulevard can't be beer AND condiments. At least not in the mind, where brands reside.

AND is the antonym and nemesis of focus. Therefore, there is no place for AND in your brand.

Maybe you're okay with Pale Ale Mustard. Some of you can justify it because you like its beer. Perhaps, you might also enjoy a tall, cold Grey Poupon Pilsner?

Boulevard, just focus on beer AND drop the mustard, and whatever other brand expansions you're cooking up, AND get back to what you do best and what people really want from you: Great Artisan Beer.

These are my GUTS Feeling.