Generalist Brands vs Specialist Brands; Which Will Win?

Generalist Brands are Failing

Generalist brands are basically brands that market and sell too many kinds of completely, unrelated products and services under the same brand name. Take for example, a brand who sells cars, also sells real estate, bedding, perfume, sodas and many other stuffs under the sun.

Selling everything under the sun, may cause your brand to be a "sunset" product in the long run.

Selling everything under the sun, may cause your brand to be a “sunset” product in the long run.

“A Jack of All Trades is the Master of None”, you can’t be everything to everyone. This is so true especially when we are comparing brands in today’s context where marketing information is so fast and so massive; and with such a BIG change in today’s marketing landscape, generalist brands could easily lose their product differentiation to specialist brands if they remain generalist.

Specialist brand is better than a generalist brand because:

1) Brand Positioning in Consumers’ Minds is much Easier

Specialist brands focus on being the leader in their niche industry; while a generalist brand has too many industries to handle. Specialist brands are often viewed as an expert in their industry by the consumer, while generalist brands could  not capture their brand positioning that well enough. Hence, with the continuous lack of focus on gaining the niche market share, generalist brands will tend to lose out to specialist brands especially in the long run.

Will you lose focus when you have too many industries to handle?

Will you lose focus when you have too many industries to handle?

2) Generalist Brands Diversifies Way Too Much

While it may look good that diversity may help to minimize business risks and at the same time increase more business profits. However, it may not look good for the brand in the long run, as having too much stuffs to market and sell may lead to brand obscurity, which is causing countless confusion among your consumers about where your brand is leading them. What would you think when one day Dell Computers suddenly begin to sell donuts or Starbucks coffee starts to sell flowers? Crazy!?

Diversity may make it too blur for consumers to remember your brand

Diversity may make it too blur for consumers to remember your brand

3) When Marketing Goes Viral Online

With the advancement of internet and social media, massive information are available to all within reach. Consumers are bombarded with loads of marketing messages much more than ever before.  Brands without big marketing budget could without difficulty, penetrate into the market to compete with the Big Boys.

Big boys with BIG marketing dollars are no longer a threat to small businesses anymore in today's era

Big boys with BIG marketing dollars are no longer a definite threat to small businesses brands anymore especially in today’s era

This evolution in the marketing landscape will also mean that big generalist brands with big marketing dollars could no longer monopolize their industry anymore; paying big bucks to big time ad agencies and traditional marketing mediums is a thing of a past as they could no longer guarantee your brand leadership in the long run as well.

"Sorry big time competitors, it is just not your monopoly anymore"

“Sorry big time competitors, it is just not your monopoly anymore” Photo credits: Flickr

Such change in the marketing landscape, give rise to more brand choices for the consumer; thus giving business owners all the more reasons for an urgent need to become specialist brands in order to get into the minds of the consumer.

However, in some cases,

Some successful specialist brands today may also have the tendency to become generalist brands someday, due to the most logical reason, “There is MORE money to be made, Silly.”

Big Frog to Small Frog: "DON'T BE SILLY, SILLY!"

Big Frog to Small Frog: “DON’T BE SILLY, SILLY!”

Obviously, there will be more money to be made since you are selling more products.  Your newer products could just “piggyback” on the success of your existing brand name. However, in the long run, such transition could just destroy your brand. Ruthlessly.

Consumers will no longer view your brand as the expert in your industry. In Singlish terms, your brand is becoming like a ROJAK!

Rojak is a very delicious Singapore cusine with ingredients such as fried dough (youtiao), cucumbers, pineapple, cuttlefish, lotus, apple, deep fried tofu (taupok), peanuts and bean sprouts mix together.

Rojak is a very delicious Singapore cuisine which mix ingredients such as fried dough (youtiao), cucumbers, pineapple, cuttlefish, lotus, apple, deep fried tofu (taupok), peanuts and bean sprouts together. Photo credits: Flickr

Some specialist brands may also extend their product lines to reach more consumer market segments within the same industry. For example, a kids’ fashion brand extending its line to adult fashion or a high end boutique brand extending its line to sell cheaper products to the masses. While it seems that this move still keeps the brand within the same industry, it in fact, is separating them apart.

Try extending your little finger to the same length of your index finger.

Try extending your little finger to be longer than your index finger and maintain that position for an hour. Difficult?

“Don’t try to be everything to everyone. There is still money to be made by being yourself.”

So, is there a solution for generalist brands today?

What's the Solution?

What’s the Solution?

Yes of course. There is still some hope for the generalist brands if they are willing to CHANGE their branding approach. Instead of being everything for everyone, they should create micro specialist brands outside their brand. The micro brand should operate under a different entity. It can target a different group of consumers within the industry as well as selling a completely different kind of product and services. The best example to explain this is to learn from the success story of these 2 successful automobile brands, Toyota and Lexus. Same owner, but 2 different brand entities that do very well in their own niche market.

Perhaps, it's time to change.

Perhaps, it’s time to change.

By operating on the concept of having many micro specialist brand entities, generalist could improve their profits without jeopardizing their main brand positioning in the long run. However, the catch here is “to Change” and this can be the enormous PROBLEM with most generalist brands today.

“By changing nothing, nothing changes.” -Tony Robbins

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6 thoughts on “Generalist Brands vs Specialist Brands; Which Will Win?

  1. Magnificent publish, very informative. I ponder why the opposite experts of this sector do not realize this. You should proceed your writing. I am sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!|What’s Going down i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It positively useful and it has aided me out loads. I am hoping to give a contribution & help different customers like its aided me. Good job.

  2. Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as
    long as I provide credit and sources back to your blog?
    My website is in the very same niche as yours and my users would
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  3. I agree with the basic premise of this post, but what about brands like Virgin who have successfully navigated multiple waters? Granted they are unique in many aspects. Also, logical brand extension is important for a brand to realize full potential, it’s a matter of context and relevance.

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