The goal of every brand manager is to get the brand to resonate with consumers in a personal and lasting way. Branding is a war for the mind. And, if your brand is eventually able to overcome the noise of market competition and find that sacred spot in the mind of a consumer, it’s a remarkable accomplishment. The brands that most often find, and then keep, these positions are those that most easily cut through the noise because of their consistent focus on a singular idea.
Papa John’s began in 1983 and focused on a narrow menu that allowed it to deliver on the promise of “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” “By keeping the Papa John's menu simple, we ensure the quality of our product by using only the best ingredients,” says the company’s website. Through this narrow focus, Papa John’s was able to build itself from a pizza shop in the back of a bar to America’s third-largest pizza chain.
Simplicity allows brands to do more than improve the quality of their services. It also allows brands to have a narrow focus on new markets, and can even create new categories. Online dating services are a great place to look for this concept in practice. Although dating services like Match.com, eHarmony, and PlentyOfFish dominate the online dating market, splinter services with a narrower focus have created new opportunities for growth. JDate.com is a dating service for Jewish people. Because it leads the category for “online Jewish dating,” it can bill itself as the “most popular online Jewish dating community” (illustrating the power of category leaders). Other examples include dating sites for exclusively “beautiful people” (beautifulpeople.com), dating sites for mature singles (SilverSingles.com), and even dating sites for married people (AshleyMadison.com). It’s likely that this trend will continue, and even more new categories for online dating will emerge.
On the other side, brands that try to do too much have a hard time lasting in the market. These brands often fall for the fallacy of “convergence,” a branding idea that says that the more your product or service does, the more appeal it will have to a wider audience. Unless these products offer a convenience factor greater than their individual parts, the brand is doomed for failure. It’s because the more functions or service offerings that a brand promises, the harder it is to deliver. Consumers instead will opt for the “specialists.” A restaurant that offers fish, tacos, hamburgers, chicken, steaks, and salads may do one or two of those things well, but most consumers go to a Legal Sea Foods for fish, a Five Guys for hamburgers, or a Ruth’s Chris for steaks. These brands have established themselves as leaders because they have a narrow focus on their brand and excel at delivering on that focus.
If your brand is struggling, consider pruning it down and narrowing the focus. It’s better that you do one thing very well than several things poorly. By having a wide focus, brands lose to the specialists who can deliver a higher-quality product or service. Additionally, a wide focus makes it impossible for you to establish a brand position in the mind of a consumer. Don’t try to do too much with your brand. Keep it simple.