SQUARING THE CIRCLE: Consumer Choice and Consumer Segments
I have been reading about market segmentation and choice. Howard Moskowitz’s research into tomato sauce as retold by Malcom Gladwell on the TED talks led to a big increase in sales by Prego.The company added new varieties to its lineup of sauces – chunky, garlicky, mushroom, and saw a big jump in sales.(http://www.ted.com/talks/malcolm_gladwell_on_spaghetti_sauce?language=en Moskowitz’s conclusion was that consumers are not one great monolithic entity with one taste in tomato sauce. Therefore, the company needed to offer more varieties and in so doing dug deep into the market.
But merely offering lots of choice leads to lower sales. In Terry O’Reilly’s CBC Radio programme, Under the Influence, (http://www.cbc.ca/radio/undertheinfluence/limited-edition-brands-1.3021076) Terry recounted a test marketing of jam. When consumers were offered dozens of varieties and even inducements, like coupons, sales were still less than where consumers were offered limited choice. It seems that our human brain cannot cope with too much choice. Too much choice causes us to walk away shaking our heads.
How can we square the circle of too much choice simultaneously increasing sales and killing sales?
The companies that have been successful in adding choice already have a market presence. Reebok introduced its soft leather dance shoe in 1982, but gradually offered tennis shoes, basketball and then children’s shoes. There was a time lag as Reebok built its brand and consumer awareness of the benefits of supple leather footwear. Introduced all at once to the market, it could have been hard to sell a monolithic idea to a splintered group of people with altogether different needs and tastes. We are not all the same and so we all do not need the same product.
So how is it done? First create a presence in the market for 1 product or service that is the best or suits your target market the best. Dominate your market. Like the pub in the sitcom, Cheers, Everyone Knows Your Name. This is brand creation. Offer limited choice in that product or service. If you are offering more than 3 or 4 choices, trim. Only when you have some significant market share (you are measuring your market penetration, right?) can you start slowly adding other related versions to the original idea. Even after marketing leather shoes to dancers, Reebok is still best known for… running shoes.