Egg-laying woolly dairy pig

The Germans have an expression for something that tries to do everything, ‘eierlegende Wollmilchsau’, which I have loosely translated in the title of this post. Many brands fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone. It’s a kind of ‘throw in the kitchen sink and toilet as well’ philosophy to make sure every possible benefit is covered off. If you miss out a benefit, a competitor might come along and steal the show, so try to occupy the middle ground on everything.

Doing this this this this this this this this this and this. Source: website screenshot

Doing this this this this this this this this this and this. Source: website screenshot

I’m used to seeing this approach with mainstream supermarket products like dishwasher tablets. Take Somat, the German brand from Henkel. They have long tick lists on their packs underscoring the many things they can do. I knew they’d hit the magic number of 7 already (some marketing people believe you can’t get more than 7 messages to stick with customers – if that!), but having checked, I now find they’ve been up at 10 benefits for a while. Where will they stop? How many benefits can you cram into one product? Do you eventually have to step back and focus again on your proper USP? Or do you have no single benefit that comes before the others?

Outta this world

Outta this world

On a summer visit to Munich I noticed a sign (pictured on the right) above a market stall publicising demeter, a brand that is well known to organic food lovers. And what do I find?

Now things aren’t just organic (German ‘bio), not even cosmodynamic (this is an anthroposophical approach I wasn’t aware of, based on Steiner principles), but now we have the Demeter brand linked to ‘cosmobiodynamic’ claims. What is this? Judging by the symbol of the human being floating under a Christian cross, hovering over the world, with four wings left and right: this food is spiritually spacey, religiously adjusted, organic and dynamically humane. What next?

Let me have a stab: food only grown within walking distance of the store, zero emissions, doing away with fuel-burning transport. I’ll call it microloco-zero-em-cosmobiodynamic.

What’s the message of this blog post, or the lesson we can all learn from these examples? If you have a brand or product, ask yourself a simple question: how would you explain the key benefit(s) in a simple sentence – or even a couple of adjectives – to someone like your grandmother? If you can nail it in a short and succinct set of words, you have clear benefits. And don’t try to do too many things at the same time.

Alex Woodruff

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