4 Sep 2012
By Angelica Moreno
In the first article in this series, I outlined the 4Ps of Marketing. These are the basic principles used by marketers of big brands like Tide, Oreo and Dove to drive growth on their businesses. These same principles can be leveraged by any small business starting with the focus of this week’s article, “Product.”
About a year ago, I provided some consulting to a contractor/interior decorator who was trying to shift his business away from contracting and focus it more on decorating but he wasn’t having much success. The key issue was that he hadn’t clearly defined his product. By wanting to offer a variety of services, he was diluting his product and as a result, doing more contracting and less decorating.
Let’s look at a small business example: a bakery. The products should be simple enough but is it? Breads, muffins, scones, throw in some gluten-free options, maybe something organic options, pastries… it starts to get confusing. What is this bakery all about? If the goal is to be a small, neighborhood bakery then perhaps wedding cakes and éclairs aren’t the right products to feature in store.
On the other hand, if the area is already clogged with regular-type bakeries, then the opportunity exists to focus on more specific baked goods using organic ingredients, gluten-free options, or up market pastries. The key is to figure out the type of bakery (or any other small business), find the niche and then fill it. Do not spread yourself or your products too thin because then your unique point of differentiation is lost and then why would a customer patronize your business versus another down the street?
This is a common hurdle for small businesses, especially in the early days where simply bringing money in is paramount for success. In truth, just like every good brand, every good small business has to be clear on the products it is offering consumers and stay focused on that target.
Large brands have struggled with this too. In the 90s, P&G tried to take its popular Oil of Olay (as it was then known) skin care brand into cosmetics. It was a complete failure. Why? While Oil of Olay was a strong skin care brand, it lost its focus when it tried to extend into cosmetics. Years later, the brand has been repositioned as Olay and has launched numerous highly efficacious, skin care products. What P&G has now done is to take the strong equity behind Olay and linked it with Cover Girl, another one of their powerful brands but with a different product focus – cosmetics. The use of both brands has resulted in Cover Girl with Olay cosmetics products, specifically skin products such as foundation where the anti-aging benefits of Olay would be desirable to consumers.
The key take away is that even P&G, with their enormous marketing budgets had to take a step back and refocus Olay on skin care. Spreading the brand too thin was resulting in its failure and costing P&G millions.
When I think of a small business that has nailed down their Product, a kid’s hair salon I’ve walked past many times in my neighborhood springs to mind. The entire look and feel of the salon, the music, the décor, and the chairs (reminiscent of carousel rides) it’s all single minded and focused on providing the ultimate kid’s haircutting experience. And quite unlike many other businesses in the area, this one has proven to be stable because the owners identified a true consumer need and have produced a Product focused on delivering on that need.
Angelica Moreno is a marketing professional who has managed the well-known household brands Becel, Hellmann’s and Sensodyne.