We make cycling bags, we have a lot of colours but a tight selection of styles. As the founder and designer, i sometimes wonder about how the brand will expand, and the designer in me constantly itches to design different products. I dream about Goodordering stationery, sneakers, clothing, sunglasses, bicycles... However the practical (and more cautious) side of me knows the obstacles and costs involved in entering new markets. So for now, we continue just making bags for commuter cyclists.
I looked other product brands that have a tight product selection to investigate options, ideas and see how and when they decide to expand. So here is a bit of a case study into some that i have discovered.
This swimwear company launched in 2013 from a New York based Turkish designer. The bikinis have a distinct look and signature style involving crocheted edging. They have a 261K strong instagram following and are worn by celebrities around the world. The swimwear market, like many fashion sectors is hugely competitive so having an aesthetic look that clearly ties into brand values (artisan/craftsmanship) makes the brand very distinctive. This approach has obviously paid off. Kiini are planning to introduce clothing to their range in the near future.
Love them or hate them (i love them), crocs have carved themselves a place in the footwear market and they are here to stay. The concept of a mash up between clogs and flip flops is both practical and divisive, which has earned them great press. Whilst many people absolutely hate crocs, they stood the test of time. They became a meme of themselves and consequently have seen the most glamorous collaborations with brands like Balenciaga and had guest designers like Drew Barrymore.
LUCAS PAWPAW OINTMENT
Lucas' Papaw ointment is an Australian darling. The brand was started in by Dr Thomas Lucas who moved from London to Australia in 1876 in search of warmer climes. He discovered the healing properties of Papaw and formulated this product which has largely remained unchanged. The business is still a family business employing just 40 people. The iconic product has been copied, which is a drawback to just having one product that effectively has not changed in 100 years. They now offer different size tubs and various specialist packaging that makes it easier to apply to different areas such as lips.
Not strictly a single product brand, i wanted to include Dyson here to investigate how a brand build on a single product originally can scale. Back when they launched Dyson sold the BMW of vacuum cleaners. They were revolutionary due to their bagless technology and were also designed to look a certain way. Their space age aesthetic brought this domestic appliance into the slick powertool arena, and made people want to invest. Today the brand has expanded into other such as commercial hand dryers, fans, heaters and humidifiers. All their products capture their DNA of "technology, performance and frustration" When i think of a Dyson product i think that it will be good quality, innovative and well designed. This controlled expansion along a clear vision of the brand stands for makes sense and is a compromise between fast product development and remaining true to their core product(s).
Burger & Lobster
The food industry is full of examples of single mindedness when it comes to product offering. Dunkin donuts, Meringue Girls, Tonkotsu and even Starbucks can be described as business' that focus on one thing and scale. In 2011, Burger & Lobster was born from 4 schoolmates wanting to perfect the craft of just one or two main ingredients. In a small Irish pub in Mayfair the first Burger & Lobster was born, and now they have restaurants all over the world. The food and beverage industry is a good example of where specialisation is not just beneficial but vital. The days of the all you can eat buffet of random crap is over and i think its important to learn a lesson from this.
Need a notebook ? no, need a moleskin :) the brand has an almost monopoly on the notebook / journal market largely due to its wide availability and the fact that the product is so recognisable. People go through a lot of notebooks in their lives and I feel have a fair amount of brand loyalty to notebooks. Therefore once someone becomes a customer, there is a fair chance that they will be for life. Making their notebooks widely available is a must for the brand and i think has contributed to them keeping their top ranking place in the notebook world.
At Goodordering, we design bags for urban commuters - this niche target audience has served us well, and also been limiting in some ways. We find customers who love our bags who think they can't have one because they don't ride a bicycle. At the end of the day, we really believe in the importance of daily commuting by bicycle and want to focus in on this area. We may introduce more products in the future but they would have to be very well thought out, we would need to decide whether we are a cycling company first or if we are a bag company first. We'd love to hear your comments.
The benefits of single product brands
Niche gives focus - there are already not enough hours in the day, so being able to focus on one market and one product category
Product category fame - when you are known for one product, you are more likely to get press attention and also customers may come to you because they appreciate your focus on that product category - you only do one thing so you must be good at it. Is your brand cut out to be a jack of all trades or a master of one?
Internal efficiencies and learnings - you get better
More options - you can offer your customer more variations such as size and colour off the same product.
The drawbacks of single product brands
Boring - sometimes the designer or founder might just bored of their own brand.
Limited cross selling - you have nailed your target consumer and have an open way of communicating with them, if you only have one product you are missing out on the opportunity to sell them more things.
Fewer returning customers - once someone has bought a bag from me, until it breaks or unless they want to buy one as a present for someone, they usually don't return.
Author - Jacqui Ma, is designer and Founder of Goodordering, East London bag company