February 01, 2016

What is the One Thing?

In the movie City Slickers, Curly (played by Jack Palance) gives Mitch (Billy Crystal) a life lesson while sitting around the campfire.

Curly: Do you know what the secret to life is? (He’s holding up 1 finger.)

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: You stick to one thing, and the rest don't mean s@&$.

Mitch: But what is the one thing?

Curly: That's for you to find out.

Unbeknownst to the rough and tumble Curly, he was revealing one of the most important things every marketer should know: what is the one thing?

It is perfectly normal for anyone marketing a particular product to know every feature and benefit it offers, and it’s common to believe that we need to tell the entire world about every last one of them.

But to be an effective advertiser and a successful challenger brand, we must resist this urge and focus our product down to the one thing it does better than any other. Then it is important to determine who is the specific group or demographic that will care about this "one thing" more than anyone else.

When consumers are shopping for a functional CPG product, they don't want a Swiss Army knife. Sure, it has a pair of tiny scissors, a little spork and a pop-out tooth pick, but would anyone actually buy a Swiss Army knife just for one of these tools? No, because everyone thinks they "know" that a product that does everything does nothing very well. And it is the consumer’s reality that matters, not ours, when it comes to crafting a winning advertising message.

Extensive research shows that, on average, 75% of consumers cite specificity of indication as a deciding factor when buying a product. Think of some of the examples already at retail. Shampoo and conditioners for oily hair, dry hair, thin hair, long hair, red hair, blond hair, black hair, curly hair, no hair, aging hair, split-end hair, dyed hair, processed hair… I can continue, but I won't.

Out of all of the examples above, how much chemical difference do you think there really is between any of these different SKUs? As a percentage of the formula, the difference would be in the single digits, if that.

These marketers have learned that consumers are far more likely to select a product they identify as being highly targeted just for their needs. Even better, they are often willing to pay more for it.

To wrap this up, let's say you have a product that really does work for more than one indication. Simple answer, it is ok to promote up three key features and benefits, as long as you focus on one at a time and one demographic at a time.

Keep the main thing the main thing.