Mass products are dead. Long live the millions of niche products.
We don’t need yet another shop selling cheap fake jewelry from China. A client of ours, though, whose product is jewelry customized to keep a personal memory alive, sells like crazy.
The market and the consumers have evolved. It’s true that we can now afford to be spoilt by choice, but nevertheless, we vote with our wallets. It’s a matter of self-expression and finding the best product for one’s own needs rather than just buying what’s out there.
Don Draper would have to work much harder in present days because people’s expectations have gone up exponentially. If you have no idea who Don is, you obviously haven’t watched Mad Men. You should!
Back in the 50s, the average housewife was thrilled to get a box of ready cereal for her kids and be a good and caring modern mother (as the commercial told her).
Today, boxed cereals are frowned upon and people choose the fair-trade nuts and seeds for their own granola mix and get it biweekly with a subscription.
There are cosmetic, makeup and shaving brands for people of color.
Тhere is gender-neutral underwear.
Washable, compostable and high-tech women’s hygiene products.
There’s CBD oil for dogs.
There are made-to-order acne treatments, chocolate bars and suits.
Protein bars for all kinds of diets and body goals.
Cosplay hair dye.
All of those companies have a strong story to bond with their customers. They cater to a gap on the market — usually one the founders felt themselves. They are part of the target market so they understand it perfectly and nail the marketing messaging. (How about you?)
And that’s why the solutions are so appealing to others like them.
Those products are made to solve problems, not just reach every household.
Brands of the future realize it’s better to cover one problem very well and be the go-to product in that segment rather than be everywhere and help no-one. Selling one time to everybody on the whole market doesn’t make any sense because it’s not sustainable.
We have social media, reviews and what not now — if we don’t like a product, we ain’t no buying it again and we’ll make sure our friends won’t either.
So mass products cannot thrive if they don’t work. If they can’t keep customers coming back.
And here we are back at the beginning:
One size doesn’t fit us all anymore and we’re already liberated to say it and demand it.
Small wonder big companies can’t keep up. Their products are mass. They have been built for economies of scale, not economies of shifting consumer preferences.
True, the big corporations have tried to diversify their portfolios with different brands to cover varying consumer groups, but people believe there’s any difference less and less. Those are not catering to different niches, maybe only different price points.
Some even acquire and manage to turn good niche products into the next questionable brand on their portfolio (like Silk Soy Milk) and turn loyal customers away.
Good examples also exist, but they go by the new, digitally-native brand rules.
Fashion giants like ZARA and H&M are trying to jump the niche bandwagon with highly focused, upscale offerings from separate brands (8 and 7 respectively) reaching to a new audience, previously untouched by their lowest-common-denominator appeal.
Also, PepsiCo is releasing its first ecommerce-only drink under the separate label Drinkfinity. It, too, is a new concept of juice pods that you put in a special bottle to infuse your water. See the pattern of reimagining products to better fit the new consumer?
This only comes to show that mass products are dead. (Don’t believe me? Alan Huynh said it 4 years ago.)
General products appeal to everyone and end up loved by no-one.
So the future belongs to the niche, hyper-targeted products able to win over hearts and minds.
If you want to be part of it, focus. Narrow down. Segment.
The loyalty of a 100 is worth more than the looks of 1000.
As someone who works with direct-to-consumer brands every day and helps them scale, I can tell you this: the more focused a product is, the more focused the whole business is. Also, operations and marketing go smoother.
It’s because you remove the unwanted distractions like not-so-perfect customers and the need to communicate generally.
Once you have focus, you’ll be able to:
- Communicate genuinely and specifically with the best target audience
- Develop and improve your product for its perfect user
- Prioritize types of promotions, channels, referrals for best results
- Do effective email marketing based on customer’s behavior (you’ll have lots of interesting behaviors to react to even in a small niche, trust me)
And what’s most important from what I see with our Metrilo clients — focused brands manage to do customer retention and grow healthily in terms of cash flow compared to others that are more general and struggle with acquisition costs all the time.
Interested in retention for brands?