A Branding and Fragmentation Issue, Writ Large for Republicans
Once upon a time, there was a man named Larry Light, evp of Backer Speilvogel Bates advertising company. He coined the edict: “One, two, three or you’re out.” Top Brands need primacy of place. You can’t be down in the weeds with a one or two share, make some money and expect to retain shelf space. A decade or so after that wisdom came The Paradox of Choice: too many options stymy us.
I am put in mind of Larry Light and, too, Barry Schwartz’ book as I look at the ongoing news of the Republican presidential candidates. I’m not speaking here about the pluses and minuses of the various candidates. I’m just looking at the share war, and all the reports of dithering on the part of the establishment politicos about how to stop the new “Brand” juggernauts. Right now, Light’s wisdom looks outmoded. The Paralysis of Choice seems Old World too.
When we look at the grocery store aisles (and the regional acquisition targets of Big Food), we are seeing a proliferation of small brands, ones we discover, try, buy, share and advocate and then move on from, in search of new discovery. Maybe it started, as one colleague suggested today, with craft beers. Maybe with Sobe Soda, Annie’s Organic, Bolthouse Farms, Kathleen’s Cookies, Mary’s Gone Crackers, the list goes on and on.
However it began, the Horatio Alger story of a tiny start-up based on a recipe from my mother’s mother and climbing its way up the food chain is the stuff of foodie mythos. Is this the hope that fuels all these presidential hopefuls? Consumers love their candidate discoveries and soon the Big Politics Machine will ‘buy them’ too?
Is this why the tiny candidates aren’t selling out and exiting stage left? Why the “channel partners” do not demand an SKU reduction? Together the two leaders have something around 50 percent of the Republican poll numbers. The rest of the voters constitute another 50 percent, spread among a dozen or so wannabes. The difficulty, of course, is that while there’s arguably an infinite number of cookies, jam, yogurt and beer brands, there’s a finite amount of space at the top of the candidate pyramid: Two slots.
Hey Big Deal Republicans. Too many elephants in the room?