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Is your brand so good it’s a default?

I’m always fascinated with default shopping behaviors.  I default to Walmart for household goods.  Every time I go there, I never walk away excited.  I stand in line 3 people deep at 10 O Clock at night and am amazed at how many people flock to this store.  Why do we gravitate there?  I think it’s because it’s consistently cheap.  I don’t want to overpay for hot dogs at Albertsons or pay 8 bucks for a hunk of cheese when I can get it for 4 at Walmart.  The savings are bigger with items like soap, toilet paper, and random household things.  The toilet paper we buy costs about 2-3 bucks less at Walmart than others.  But I never ENJOY shopping there and always end up spending more than 100 bucks.

I often find myself standing in line at default shopping experiences wondering if my business is good enough to be a default for someone.

I can think of other default buying experiences.  Need a quick bite to eat?  McDonalds is always fast and fairly consistent… though never great.  Starbucks is always fresh, but you never go away telling your friends about the greatest cup of coffee you ever had at Starbucks.  Need some weeds sprayed in your yard?  You kind of think of that dog on the Trugreen Chemlawn truck.  A movie at an AMC is consistently played with good stereo quality, comfortable seats, and a good temperature.  But it’s 40 bucks after popcorn!  We go to cheaper ones sometimes, but you may get a bad seat, low volume, old popcorn, and sometimes no AC or worse heat… So we default to the more expensive move theatre.  John Deere and Caterpillar machinery are consistently good, there’s service shops everywhere, and hold their value when you sell them, but parts are expensive and not as exciting when you found out that Gehl actually has a pretty good track system, Cat copied it, and they are 12,000 less.

I think any default buying experience is gauged by you explaining it to someone as: “Oh, I just went with such and such…”

You’re never excited about it, but you still do it over and over again.  Why?  Because you know what you’re getting.  It’s consistent, and the price is sometimes right.  In the case of Caterpillar and John Deere, you WILL spend more, but you WILL be able to sell your used equipment for more.  Starbucks you WILL pay more, but you aren’t rolling the dice on a 2 hour old cup of coffee.  Sometimes you just don’t want to overpay so you go to WalMart.

Defining your angle is utterly important in coming up with your default strategy.  Will you be the cheapest?  Will you be the most consistent?  Will you be the oldest?  Will you be the most reliable?  I can think of default opinions on a different competitor of mine for each statement there.  They all make me so mad because I think of our company as reaching all those goals, and thus we send a mixed message.  But wait!  Maybe a mixed message is perfect!

I think I’d rather be the Soup Natzi from Seinfeld experience (Without the rudeness.)  The 7 random meat stromboli from Mikes that I drive 20 minutes out of my way to get every now and then.  The Blue Bottle coffee I wait in line 10 minutes for.  Maybe default is just not good enough for us.  I think we’d rather be the business that you rave about to your friends or family.  The business you’d stand in line for to get the insanely great soup from.  I mean a default buying experience is boring anyway.  We don’t want to be boring.  Even if we don’t make as much money becoming a default buying experience, we can still all become cravings in our own categories.  If that’s your goal, then the big question is am I providing something that is good enough to be a craving?  Now that’s a hard question that we’d rather sweep under the rug.

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