The Single Biggest Branding Mistake You Can Make

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I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s better to do one thing exceptionally well than to do a dozen things at a mediocre level. Unfortunately, not enough companies take this advice to heart.

Too many companies try to be everything to everybody, when in reality they would be better off focusing on being something to somebody. It might sound counterintuitive, but the narrower your brand’s focus is, the stronger your brand can become.

Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about.

No matter where you are in the United States, you’ve probably heard on In-N-Out Burger, even though the fast food chain only has locations in a few states in the Southwest. Why is that?

One of the main reasons for In-N-Out Burger’s success is that they’ve focused their efforts on doing one thing well—making a killer burger. Their menu is the complete opposite of almost any other fast food place you go to. It’s very limited. Rather than giving customers 50 different options of mediocre courses, they just offer the following: hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger (Double-Double), fries, and shakes.

The In-N-Out brand is built on being something to somebody rather than everything to everybody. The brand has a very small focus, and that’s what has driven its success to date.

Now, let me give you an example of just the opposite.

Remember Blockbuster Music? Yeah, you probably forgot about it. That’s because it was a colossal failure. Blockbuster used to be the undisputed king of video rentals. That was their focus. Then, they got greedy. They tried to start selling music too, so Blockbuster Music stores were opened across the country.

Problem was, people associated the Blockbuster name with two things: rentals and movies. The new music concept was confusing to consumers, and as a result, the company faced years of losses. It was a disaster.

Sure, you can point to examples of companies expanding their focus successfully over time, but typically, these are the exceptions to the rule. Healthy growth and expansion within your category is possible, but when you start expanding your brand’s focus too much, the brand name gets watered down, losing its strength and profitability.


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