Monday Rant: Too Many Choices

A quick trip to the grocery store reminded me of my least-favorite aspect of modern life: drowning in consumer choices.

Man with shopping bags holding up a question mark

At Target this weekend I ran across no less than 7 different kinds of Dijon Mustard. And that’s just one brand of Dijon.  I’m not even counting the entire shelf of less exotic mustards.

Dijon now comes in “country” “deli” “spicy” “creamy” “white wine” “raspberry” and (wait for it) “original”.  For god’s sake… it’s just mustard!

I hate trying to decide between “deli” and “country” mustards.  In fact, I occassionally shop at Aldi just to avoid the choice overload.  Aldi’s cool because it often offers just one brand and one flavor.  You want bread?  Aldi’s got one shelf of white bread.  $1.25.  No waiting.  No standing around trying to decide “white-wheat or cracked-wheat or wheat-berry or whole-wheat…”  Take your bread and move on, please.

OK, that’s my view as a consumer, but not as a business person.

As a business person you’ve got to know that there’s an important lesson here.  Its an easy one, but its worth billions if you take it to heart: Simply this:  Consumers love choices, variety and things that are different.  The more ways you can flavor your mustard or crack your wheat, the more buyers you will find for your sandwiches.

At least two things are happening here:

(1)  The guy who buys your “original” Dijon mustard might now buy 2 or 3 different flavors from you.,  Maybe he uses your “raspberry” Dijon instead of someone else’s Ketchup.  Anyway, you sell more total product, not less.

(2)  The guy who loves raspberries might try your mustard for the first time because of the raspberry flavor. A new customer!  Again, you sell more total product, not less.

You can see it happen all around you.  Every market is being hyper-niched.  And amazingly, consumers seem to keep scooping up an endless variety of cars, cookies, and cosmetics.

The lesson is clear:  If you produce a product or offer a service, go for variation.  If you have a $20,000 offering, look for a $200 offer.  If you currently make blue, try red.  Not all derivations will be successful, but the market is so large (in particular, the consumer market), that you are bound to bump into something that works as well or better than what you are already doing.

And chances are that you’ll ADD to your sales rather than cannibalize them.

Our consumer culture is based on choice. Differentiation.  Variation.

Go forth and multiply.

Dedicated to your (multiplied) profits,


Originally Published

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