Stick to What You Know: How Branching Out Can Hurt Your Business 2

Once a small business gains traction and really starts to get some miles under its belt, many of the factors that can cause roadblock along the way are actually self-induced. When it comes to marketing and establishing your brand, more often than not, you are your own worst enemy.

Don’t Dilute Your Brand

Case in point: did you know that without even being aware of it, you can unintentionally weaken and dilute your brand? This typically happens when business owners start to get overambitious.  These are business owners who have thoughts like, “Well, we’re mastering these 30 second live video ads, so let’s branch out and see how we do with animation,” or “Since we’ve got this vinyl lettering thing down, let’s see how well we can do with making engraved tombstones.”

These are exaggerations, of course (I certainly hope). But it’s easy to see how success in one area might lead a business owner to experiment in new arenas. This is usually a bad idea for a number of reasons. Not only does it water own your brand, but it can also cause consumer confusion.

By doing too much, the public can easily get confused as to what it is your company does. Worse than that, it’s much harder to see you as an expert in any one particular industry.

Consider the example of Virgin.  This is a company that dipped its toes into many pools—the music industry, railroads, air travel and even space flight. While the ambition initially paid off, their various areas began to topple in a sort of domino effect. Virgin had to eventually sell the recording industry part of their company in order to help fund other areas.

Perhaps worst of all, people began to get very confused about what the Virgin brand was about. Were they about space travel or music or what?

Of course, Virgin is still around and kicking; they are simply too large to be ruined by this sort of brand dilution. But they are also a multi-million dollar company. Such damage taken on by a small business can be disastrous.

How To Tell If You’re Spread Too Thin

If you fear that you might have started to water your brand down by trying too many things, take a step back and ask yourself the following.

  • Have you started to lose association with your target market?
  • Has quality in other areas of your business suffered or taken a back seat?
  • Have you stepped outside of your niche area to pursue these other interests?

If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, you may be facing a weakening of your brand. To mitigate any damage, you need to focus on what your business was all about in the first place and avoid further temptations to over-extend yourself into other niches and industries.

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  • Karin Rosner

    It’s interesting that you bring up the example of Virgin, which is the first brand in my recollection that managed to become a “lifestyle brand” that grew from its rock-n-roll music image. I loved the music. I loved the megastores. I love the airline. I am grateful for a cheap mobile plan. I’ve tried their cola… they were able to successfully make the jump by keeping three core values at the heart of their marketing strategy for all of their forays : sex-appeal, addictiveness and rock-n-roll.

    • https://www.facebook.com/davidburtoncannon David Cannon

      Apparently the brand resonated with you enough that you stuck with it. I wonder which other consumer personas “get” the Virgin brand and aren’t confused when they do something new.

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