There are entirely too many flavours of chips. There. I said it. I’m not suggesting that chips aren’t the greatest thing on the planet. I’m really not. I believe they might just be made of unicorn wishes and fairy dust. But there are entirely too many flavours of chips. Now some of these flavours are delicious, but I shouldn’t have to wade through an entire aisle of chip flavours to make a decision. In most cases, most of these chip flavours are simply cannibalizing themselves. For example, my favourite chips are salt and pepper kettle chips. When I go to the grocery store looking for chips, that’s what I’m looking for. But the company that makes kettle chips has recently decided to add roughly 100 new flavours or chips. Form Siracha to maple bacon, pepperoncini to yogurt and green onion, they’ve decided that the key to their business will be the introduction of lots of new flavours. The new flavours are great. So what’s the problem? Well, it’s a lesson in branding.
Well, the problem is that I was already going to buy kettle chips. In fact, I was going to buy a bigger, more expensive bag of kettle chips. They didn’t succeed in drawing me in to buying something I wasn’t already going to buy. They just hurt the sales of salt and pepper kettle chips AND spent a bunch of money, presumably, on research and development, packaging and marketing. They’re not the first to cannibalize their own brand in search of that new big seller.
Frito Lay has an annual contest where they ask people to name a new chip flavour. Each region gets four new flavours and then people get to vote on the best flavour out of those four. The winner, in past contests, got a monetary prize that included a percentage of future sales of that particular flavour. But here’s what happened when Frito Lay did a deep dive into their numbers; they discovered that they weren’t actually selling that many more bags of chips during the contest. They were simply selling more of a different flavour.
It seems that as sales of poutine and mac and cheese flavoured chips skyrocketed, sales of traditional flavours such as ketchup, BBQ and sour cream and onion stagnated. So, despite significant expenditures in marketing and production, they were left with about the same sales they’d always had. Worse than that, they would then have to give away a percentage of sales from this new flavour to the contest winner, essentially rewarding them for stealing chip sales away from other flavours. The contest has since been dramatically altered.
The antithesis of the “too many flavours of chips” model is the “do one thing and do it well” model. If you’ve ever been to a Five Guys (or in Halifax, a BoomBurger) they’re a burger joint with a very simple concept. They make burgers. They don’t make a whole bunch of different kinds of burgers. They make a single burger and they make a double burger. Just to keep things fresh they also do a hot dog. But what they don’t do is cannibalize their brand. They’re not coming up with new and innovative burger flavours every week. They make a burger. And they make a double burger. And they do it well.
That’s how you should run your business. Don’t keep adding new products and services that you can half-ass. Do one thing. Maybe do a couple of things. But do them better than anyone else. If your business is struggling, it’s unlikely that what you need is to come up with a new product or a new service that’s going to revolutionize the way you do business. What you need to do is drill down to what you do best. Now get better at it. Focus everything you are on that one thing. That one thing is your business. That one thing.