How sick and tired are you of having to choose between brands? Funnyman Stephen Colbert recently interviewed Lucas Conley, author of “Obsessive Branding Disorder,” to find out.
Branding, says Conley, has spun completely out of control. The idea, of course, is to build a reputation for a product name… so future products bearing that name will fly off the shelves.
It’s borrowed credibility. Sometimes appropriate. But more and more often, says Conley, it’s not.
Take a look at some of the weird and whacky branding combinations he listed during the interview (while Colbert pretended the whole thing was sponsored by Dr. Pepper)…
…Sylvester Stallone Pudding ™
…Nascar Brand Romance Novels ™
…Nascar Packaged Meats ™
…KoolAid Brand Tennis Shoes ™
…Harley Davidson Birthday Candles ™
…Playdough Limited Edition Cologne ™
Yes, these are real products.
In each case, what’s the business goal? What’s the advantage? What’s the point? You have to wonder. The folks over at neurosciencemarketing.com wondered too, but with brands that add too many choices under one brand umbrella.
For instance, did you know that there are 46 different kinds of Oreos today?
I’m talking about the little chocolate cookies with the vanilla cream center. At least, that’s what we were talking about when I was a kid. Today, you can get the “Double Stuff” version with twice the filling… the inverted “Golden Uh-Oh With Chocolate Cream”… the “Duo” which is half vanilla and half chocolate… “Spring Purple” Oreos with purple cream… and so on.
The study goes on to list an epidemic in overly stretched brands: 11 kinds of Tostitos… 16 kinds of Goldfish snack crackers… 23 kinds of Gatorade. You get the picture.
Conley’s problem with psychotic cross-branding was that all these companies had moved miles away from what they did best. That costs their customers, who get duped into buying lower quality but branded goods. It also costs the companies, who get distracted from using what they know to take their already developed businesses to the next level.
When businesses explode their menu of varieties within an already successful brand, they get a different problem. They end up competing with themselves for their own customers’ attention.
Sound like a good problem to have? Not so fast.
Columbia University did a study, using shelves loaded with exactly the mind of mega-branded product lines listed above. Customers walked past the shelves groaning with 20 different kinds of Edge Shaving gel or 30 kinds of Smuckers Jam… and the site stopped them in their tracks.
Okay so far. Except that, even though more customers stopped to look… many FEWER actually bought, compared to the customers shown a more limited choice.
How much fewer?
In the study, 30% of the customers looking at the limited selection bought at least one item. But out of the customers flooded with choices, only 3% decided to buy.