The more selective we become, the more we actually want a single perfect brand.
Suppose you want coffee in 2017. Where do you go? Maybe you have a favorite coffee shop. Maybe you’re a Starbuckie, so you go to your favorite coffee shop and order your favorite beverage, from a menu with about a dozen coffee options. Pretty simple. Now imagine you walk into a coffee shop and see the same basic options, like a vanilla latte, hazelnut macchiato, cafe au lait, cappuccino, caramel frap, etc. And on top of that, you have to also choose from a variety of coffee beans, where they’re sourced, potency, brand, all natural, organic, Fair Trade Certified, non GMO, and on. Then there’s the milk. Do you want whole milk, almond, coconut, skim, cream, is your milk all natural, locally sourced, antibiotic free? Not so simple anymore. Hope they have a full staff at the coffee house, otherwise that line is going to be a motherfucker.
Just the same, suppose you wanted to buy a new outfit for an upcoming party. Do you go to H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters? Do you want jeans, dress shirts, shoes? And what kind? What style? What brand?
Pretty soon, you’re just like, fuck it. I don’t want coffee. And actually, I’m staying home and skipping the party. Just forget it all, I’m staying home where I don’t have to make decisions!
Too many decisions give us anxiety over picking the wrong choice. We like consistency and simple decision making, but we’re always looking for better and easier, and with the abundance of options, we can’t help but wonder if our option of choice is the best. What do we do? Just keep trying the endless new products that claim to be better than the rest? Where’s the consistency in that?
I was ordering coffee on Amazon yesterday and had a realization. I just wanted a great quality, good flavor option like caramel or hazelnut or something, that was pre-ground so I could brew it in my reusable Keurig K-Cup pod. After searching for longer than I’d like to admit, I added about 8 kinds of coffee into my cart, with flavors ranging from plain and vanilla, to toffee, caramel coconut, blueberry cobbler, and butterfinger. I intently researched reviews, ingredients, bean sourcing, and details that assured me I was making the right choice. They all seemed good, but how do I know if the one I choose is the best, not just in taste, but sourcing and quality? Pretty soon I was wishing someone would just make one brand, with a coupe of good flavors, with all the best sourcing, farming, manufacturing, and all the best qualities of great products. Just one brand that is the best. Please. And I’m not alone in my wishes.
Right now we see a rise in customer preferences in terms of quality of products. Me included. We see new products popping up everywhere, and every new product wants to convince you it’s better than the rest. Meaning we see a lot of labeling that’s not much more than marketing strategy. Like labeling a bag of plain, raw almonds as “Gluten Free” and “All Natural”. Duh, it’s almonds! Why do we need 50 different brands of plain almonds. They’re probably all grabbing almonds from the same barrel, but packaging them 50 different ways. Can’t they all just work together to make one perfect brand? You don’t need to stack your package with labels just to make yourself look better. This act is almost like product virtue signaling. And it’s getting out of hand. Everyone is trying to stand out, where will this competition end up?
Not to mention most “organic”, “all natural” and “non GMO” labels are more marketing than anything. They’re not the small batch, locally sourced, chemical free operations you’d think.
Already, we see distribution channels like Amazon taking over. Products that aren’t on Amazon, practically don’t exist. Let’s jump to the future for a second. The only physical stores that are going to stick around are inexpensive clothing stores and grocery stores. Just because we still like to pick our produce and try on jeans before we buy. Target is slipping, but for now it’s pretty solid, they have good quality products across every category. Similar to Costco. They’re essentially one stop shops for daily items, and we like convenience. Take them as examples for what the future will look like. One place for everything. Fewer options, great quality, has exactly what you need, and not brand specific either. There won’t be brands in the future, just products. There will be no “What phone do you have?” Or “Whose shoes are cooler, yours or mine?” They will all be the same.
Basically, everything will be “store brand.” You want batteries, you go get batteries. You want socks, you go get socks. You want bread, you go get bread. One product, one kind, and the decision requires no time, thought, or energy. The only options will be the basic differences among products, like type and flavor. You want AA batteries or AAA? You want ankle socks or long socks? You want white bread or wheat bread? It’s all there, just without the brand competition. And every option available is researched and tested to be the best quality, which eliminates the need to worry if you’re making the best choice.
Big name stores have major power. Power that allows them to quickly adapt to changes. Stores like Costco and Target make much bigger profits when they sell their own products, because there’s no middleman. However, we love products with nice packaging and marketing, so we’d rather buy Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes than “Kirkland Corn Flakes Cereal.” And new brands are rising, and marketing themselves as the virtuous choice with marketing and labeling that states they are better sourced and manufactured than the rest. If you were running Costco or Target, would you keep stocking your shelves with the never ending new products that are nicely marketed, packaged, and sourced, or would you take the smarter route? The smarter route would be to determine what makes new brands appealing, and copy it yourself. Instead of sticking the nicely packaged and marketed Frosted Flakes or the new cereal that is all natural, organic, and non GMO, called “Frosted Virtue Flakes” or whatever, why don’t you do this: Develop your own cereal, give it a nice package, and make it the best quality? Then, everyone wins. Customers get nice packaging and great quality, and you cut out the middleman, allowing you to price lower and sell more.
I know what you economy geniuses are thinking. Competition is good because it keeps prices down and keeps companies progressing, right? Exactly right. For now. The rules of now can’t be applied to the future of commerce. Imagine a few decades ago. Who knew commerce would be dominated by online shopping, same day deliveries, robotics, and drones? Now look ahead. Right now we are obsessed with buying shit. We love the thrill of making everyday like Christmas morning. We love rewarding ourselves with little boxes that arrive at our door with items of trivial value. We love that short-lived sensation of rewards. But it’s getting old. It’s holding us back. When we look for value in possessions instead of life progression, we don’t get anywhere. When we waste time trying to decide among multiple brands, we remain more stagnant than productive. People are realizing that, and the market will have to respond.
Plus, wouldn’t you rather pay more for better quality items that lasted longer and were basic necessities? Like a nice suit or fancy dress. How many do you have? You can probably count them on one hand, maybe two. Quality beats quantity, and when it comes to basic necessities, we don’t need an abundance of options. Think about your daily necessities. Bed, toothbrush, coffee maker, stove, blender, tools, all of which will have technological, computerized integration in the future.
Like our smartphones, instead of a new version coming out, we’ll have software updates that make our current products better. Everything will be a “smart” product. In the future, we just won’t need as much shit. So of course prices will be higher, but we won’t need to buy as often.
Take a trip down the coffee aisle and prepare your goodbye speech to the plethora of options.
No more Dunkin Donuts coffee, Krispy Kreme coffee, Starbucks coffee, Folgers, Maxwell House, or any of that.
In the future, if you want coffee, here’s what you do. Go to the coffee aisle, pick your flavor, and get it. There is one option. It just says “Ground Coffee. Vanilla. Tastes Good.” Or some straightforward label like that. Why bother with cute packaging if there’s only one option?
Why will this take place? Because there’s an over saturation of competition that you see just like I do. Brands come and go like crazy these days. As much as new brands want to dominate, most of them are just trying to prolong their time of failure.
Imagine you open up a coffee shop in your hometown, you have great quality, premium beans, and the best ingredients. Go you! Now, you have Starbucks’ attention because they see you as competition. They see what you’re doing, where you source your beans, what makes your coffee so good, and they copy you. And sell it cheaper. As much as your fan base loves you, they have to think about their bank account, and coffee (as much of a daily necessity as it is) takes away a good chunk of our monthly income. Buyers know this, and keep it in mind. So unless your coffee is just out of this world, most people will go across the street to the Starbucks, and get a similar beverage at a lower price. Just the same, what if there’s a quarterly dip in the coffee industry? Starbucks could survive a bad couple months, but could your coffee shop be as resilient? Starbucks’ power will pretty soon allow them to copy you, buy your company, put you out of business, and open another Starbucks in your location. Starbucks will be a coffee house monopoly. And why call themselves Starbucks anymore? Names are for distinction. If you don’t have to distinguish yourself from any competition, why not just call yourself “Coffee House”?
Same with fashion. We see it already. We don’t care about brands as much as style and quality.
Whoever has the best quality for the cheapest price, they win. So, goodbye Macy’s, so long Nordstrom, and hello H&M. Hi Zara. How you doin Forever 21? One of these retailers is going to be the Starbucks of the fashion industry. It’s going to be a fashion monopoly. Pretty soon one is going to buy all the others. The Macy’s and Dillard’s are all going to close. Let’s say, Zara is going to buy Urban, Forever 21, H&M, and all other competition, and Zara is just going to sell the absolute best clothes. Clothes for everyone. You want clothes? Go to the clothes store. There’s only one. They’re not even going to have a name, because why distinguish yourself if you have no competition?
Right now we love to stand out from the rest. We love distinct style. The problem is, this is holding us back. Think about the best innovators. Zuckerburg, Jobs, Musk. They don’t care about this or that brand, they care about quality. Whatever product gives them the best quality, that’s the winner. Because ultimately the differences among brands are trivial. All that maters is how effectively they get the job done. Give me one brand, and one store that gets the job done perfectly every time, and that’s all I need. I can move on to more important things.
It’s a fact that in the future, brands will not matter. You might not realize this until a few decades from now, but if you can truly see ahead, you notice how there are drastic changes coming to commerce. Think about futuristic movies. Everyone is wearing similar neutral clothes, no brands, no logos, nothing unnecessary.
In the future, there’s no Starbucks, you just drink “coffee”. You can choose among vanilla, hazelnut, decaf, regular, but it will just simply be coffee. And no Dasani, Aquafina, Fiji, just “water.” Plain, unlabeled, great quality water. And no more Ford, Toyota, Nissan, or whatever, we will just have “vehicles.” Because we’re already noticing how automation is the future. Automation comes with simplicity, and fewer decisions. Commerce is no exception.
Is this singularity a good thing? It may or may not seem so now, but truthfully it is. Because with fewer decisions, comes more simplicity, better focus, and more energy. We will be focused on technology and innovation in the future. And hopefully a more collaborative and productive society. Brands, clothes, packaging, different coffee houses, none of that will matter. We won’t care because we know ultimately, we just want good quality products, and then we can move on. We have more important things to get to.