“You can’t be all things to all people” is a phrase often used in business and private life. It’s a phrase that is not often disputed. We know that if we want to be authentic and focused, we can’t be everything to everyone. But in a very competitive business environment, when we have access to intelligence like never before, are we not missing opportunities when we stick to what we know?
Starbucks opened a new flagship store – their biggest in the world – in Chicago this month. According to an article by Micheline Maynard on Forbes.com they are trying their best to have something for everyone. From single shot espressos to elaborate frappuccinos. You can do the traditional walk-in and order a take-away, you can linger in a comfy seat or you can collect your order placed via the mobile app and have the minimum human interaction. Maynard goes on to compare the Starbucks model to that of General Motors: “GM famously declared that it would sell “a car for every purse and purpose.”
The GM plan was clearly to add products and styles – mainly smaller and cheaper cars to compete with the Japanese imports. The new Starbucks shop is giving choice and experience – two leading consumer trends. It is difficult to find fault with either of these principles. To stay competitive, we have always believed in reviewing and updating your offering as required and to stay on top of world trends and consumer preference. But is this trying to be all things for all people?
We have such amazing access to information. You can get it for free online and there are a wealth of research to purchase. We can’t claim ignorance, but we can get lost in all the information. I think there is a fine line between being all things for all people and keeping your offering competitive and up to date.
I believe one needs focus. Aiming at the masses is dangerous. Trying to be everything to everyone can compromise your brand’s integrity. At the same time though, I don’t believe it is an all or nothing answer. There are very few brands who can afford a single-minded focus. It is important to understand your consumer – and as they change, you have to grow with them. I believe it is about having focus within the chaos. It is easy to get swept up by all the new trends and opportunities and to get heady chasing the competition. You need focus, but exploring opportunities, amending your product or offering and adding to your portfolio does not necessarily mean you have a shotgun approach.
As an example: we decided to add a de-alcoholised option to our wine portfolio based on intelligence and research we’ve gathered about the latest consumer trends and preferences. Developing the product required many resources and then followed the growing pains to get it into the market. We know all about wine making and distribution, but this new product had unique challenges and some might say, such a venture is a case of trying to be all things to all people. I, however, believe it is giving an option to a market demanding choice. It is not venturing into a whole new category, it is finding a stake in a competitive environment within the world we know.
For me, the importance of focus is not only when it comes to the portfolio of products or experiences, but rather a commitment to quality expectations, company ethos and brand message. Of course it is true that by trying to please everyone, sometimes you please no one, but it is not reason to bury your head in the sand either.