Offering a new line of products is one key way of staying relevant in the business community. In particular, adding a ‘high quality’ line with additional benefits is so common in modern business that it is almost ubiquitous. Before the recession, many consumers preferred ‘upgraded’ versions that offered better service or different features than the average product, and companies large and small were more than willing to comply. However, with the recession becoming entrenched in American economics—and American shopping habits—many small business owners are beginning to see that their upgrades may diminish their core brand.
Diet sodas are a good example of this behavior and its results. Introducing low calorie options, a practice now common in beverage businesses ranging from Coca-Cola to Vitamin Water, is standard in the industry as more and more customers embrace healthy lifestyles. However, what does the ‘new and healthy’ drink say about its parent product? The new product suggests errors in the original, and suddenly neither looks as good any more. The original version has too many calories; the diet one simply doesn’t taste as good as the original. The result has been a gradual decline in sales for sodas and other sweetened beverages.
The moral of this story is that customers don’t like choosing between taste and calorie counting. Introducing this choice diminishes the overall brand. However, there is a choice that consumers dislike even more: choosing between quality and value. This is exactly what upgraded lines ask them to do.
Scope Outlast is a product that serves as a good example of upgrades diminishing a line. This latest addition to the Scope brand claims to offer breath-freshening power for up to five times as long as the original product. However, it costs around fifty percent more per ounce than original Scope. When a customer walks up to the drugstore shelf, Scope asks them to choose between the quality product and the value one. It isn’t hard to imagine that customer choosing another brand, one that promises quality and value in the same bottle.
A last example is Starbucks. The coffee giant has long marketed their coffee as ‘worth it’—that is, worth the additional money and time spent in line when compared to home brewed coffee. This fall, Starbucks introduced a line of instant coffee called ‘Via’. Customers were encouraged to test the new line and confirm for themselves that it indeed tasted as good as Starbucks coffee. This begs the question: why should any customer ever again wait in line for a four dollar latte? This branding giant inadvertently pointed out that its cornerstone product now has a lower cost and more convenient alternative that offers the same advantages.
Part of surviving as a small business is introducing new lines and new products as the market changes. However, as you can see from these examples, it is important to consider every new addition in the context of your overall brand. Offering an upgrade may imply certain disadvantages to the core product. With a branding consultant, steps can be taken to diminish this effect and ensure that all of your lines are successful and well branded.