In the Marketing World, One Plus One Equals Three-Fourths

Letting Consumers Lead Can Lead You Straight to Trouble
Years ago, Burger King had 12 different burgers on its menus, while McDonald's had only five. That means Burger King should have been selling a lot more burgers than McDonald's. But it didn't.
The average McDonald's with five burgers outsold the average Burger King with 12 burgers by 50%.
Southwest Airlines has one class of service: coach. The other major airlines have several classes of service: coach class, business class, first class.
That means the other major airlines should several times as profitable as Southwest, but they're not. The four major airlines (Delta, American, United and U.S. Airways) went bankrupt. Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, has never had an unprofitable year in the 43 years it has been flying.
In the past eight years, the number of varieties of Listerine have tripled. That means Listerine should have substantially increased its share of the mouthwash business. But it didn't.
In the past eight years, Listerine's market share has fallen from 59% to 44%.
Why "more" often winds up as "less"
Before the launch of diet cola, nobody worried about the calories in a Coca-Cola. Now they do.
Diet Coke puts the cola drinker on the horns of a dilemma. Regular Coke has too many calories. Diet Coke doesn't taste as good. 
So why drink either?
No wonder per-capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks in America has fallen 12 years in a row.
Suppose Monsanto or one of the other agricultural companies found a way to grow diet apples. Would that increase the sale of apples? I think not.
If a diet apple ever hit the market, you can be sure consumers would start to pay attention to the calories in an apple. (There are 95 calories in a typical apple and sugar accounts for 73% of those calories.)
In the mathematics of marketing, one apple plus one diet apple equals three-fourths of an apple.
Yesterday it was cocaine; today it's sugar. 
When the Coca-Cola company faced a crisis over its use cocaine in a soft drink, what did it do?
Introduce two versions of Coca-Cola? One with cocaine and one without? Of course, not.
Coca-Cola should make the same decision today it made more than a hundred years ago.
Dropping its sugar colas would allow the company to run a marketing program with a real message: Coca-Cola, the real thing without the calories.
Would the company do this? Probably not.  Most companies in America are "customer-oriented." And when you are customer-oriented, you cannot lead. The customer leads. The company follows.
But sometimes companies do lead
Take Subaru, the company that pioneered four-wheel drive. But four-wheel drive didn't appeal to drivers in the South where snow and ice are rare.
Being customer-focused, Subaru sold both two-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles. By 1992, more than half of Subaru's sales were two-wheel drive. But that year the company lost $250 million on sales of $1.5 billion.
So a new president was hired, George Muller. Would you believe, he decided to sell four-wheel-drive vehicles only?
A bold decision? Perhaps, but keep in mind that every other vehicle brand sold primarily two-wheel-drive vehicles. By focusing on four-wheel drive, Subaru would have an advantage it could promote.
In 1993, Subaru sold 104,179 vehicles. Last year, 20 years later, Subaru sold 424,683 vehicles, an increase of 308 percent while the overall automobile market was up only 12 percent.
Last year, Subaru even outsold Volkswagen.
McDonald's, a chain in trouble
According to CEO Don Thompson, the company has given itself 18 months to improve its brand identity, simplify its menu and become a "more trusted and respected" place to eat.
McDonald's used to stand for hamburgers. Its original menu had just three items to eat (hamburgers, cheeseburgers & French fries) and eight items to drink.
On its signs out front, the word "Hamburgers" was set in much larger type than the word "McDonald's.
Today, the word "Hamburgers" has disappeared and McDonald's menus have increased from 11 items to some 145 items.
ALRIES                                                                                                                           Al Ries As its menu expanded, McDonald's reputation declined. A recent Consumer Reports survey of 21 hamburger chains ranked McDonald's tied with Burger King for dead last.
If this wasn't bad enough, another survey of 105 limited-service restaurants by the trade publication, Nation's Restaurant News, ranked McDonald's 104th, second from last.
In-N-Out Burger vs. McDonald's
The No.1 chain in both surveys was In-N-Out Burger. As its name suggests, In-N-Out Burger is focused on hamburgers. The only thing to eat besides burgers are French fries.
In spite of its limited menu, the average In-N-Out Burger unit does almost as much business as the average McDonald's. $2.4 million a year versus McDonald's $2.5 million a year.
Culled from Adage.
Al Ries is chairman of Ries & Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing strategy firm he runs with his daughter and partner Laura.