The Narrow Focus Brand Strategy

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So what is your brand strategy? Are you depending on the quality of your product or service alone to build a quality brand? As Al & Laura Ries say in their awesome book “The 22 Immutable Laws Of Branding”:

Don’t depend on quality alone to build your brand!

To build a quality brand, you need to narrow the focus and combine that narrow focus with a better brand name and a higher price.

An example case study that reveals the fallacy of expansion with out a proper brand strategy and the power of the narrow focus cited by Al & Laura in their book is the story of “Boston Market” or as it was originally called “Boston Chicken”.

Established in 1985 by Arthur Cores and Steven Kolow with their first restaurant in Newtonville, Massachusetts, Boston Chicken won the hearts of people with their slow-roasted marinated rotisserie chicken. By focusing on a single offering, BC ensured they put all their focus on making the best chicken they can.

This led to a meteoric success and by 1991, Boston Chicken was generating $21 million in revenues! By 1993 they went public with 217 stores and revenues of $43 million.

And like all companies that start losing their focus when they get big and successful, in 1995 Boston Chicken changed their name to Boston Market to reflect the addition of ham, turkey and meat loaf to their menu along with ready-to-eat banquet meals for the holidays.

Along with taking on too much debt to fund the rapid expansion, this loss of focus and diluting it’s brand with horizontal expansion of it’s product base, Boston Market was down on it’s knees and by 1998 had to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy!

In 2000 McDonald’s bought Boson Market and started to revive the brand.

While this may be an extreme case and there were other factors involved, it is easy to see how a brand can lose it’s power by expanding it’s focus. The narrow focus strategy is wonderful, especially if you are trying to penetrate a new market segment. By narrowing your focus and trying to create a category that you promote, you can ensure that your brand will have a slow but steady path to success.

Most business owners think they are have a narrow focus but if you look closely you will realize that most often than not, they would be trying to float a lot of boats. They would justify this as “good business” or “mitigating risk”. In a way it makes sense – you would want to increase the chances of sales and revenue by offering as many options/products/services as you can. But hard as it may be to believe, focusing on a single product/service or at least a category, is the best way to ensure success.

So how do you narrow your focus?

If you are getting started or even if your business has been around for a while, take an audit of what your product or service focus is. Find out if you can strip down your product or service portfolio to only the most successful ones. Get rid of or at at least park the ones that are not doing so well or are costing the business time and resources to market.

This is what Steve Jobs did when he came back to resurrect Apple. By getting rid of all line extensions and focusing on the iMac, he was able to create something truly awesome that eventually led the way to success. Even to this day, unlike some of it’s competitors like Samsung, Apple resists the temptation to veer away from it’s core products and services.

Which of your services or products is the most successful? Focus on that one. Don’t be tempted to try and diversify. For instance, if you are a business consultant, strip down your consulting services to just one or two core services. Refuse to take on smaller assignments that are not aligned with your core services just to make a few bucks. The same goes for a clothing label venture. Don’t try to launch too many lines at the same time. Focus on one line and do that line well.

I know it easier said that done but think deeply about what this strategy means to your business and email me if you have any questions about this strategy or how it relates to your particular business.

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