13 Jun 2012

Is there such a thing as TOO GOOD of an idea?

By Marci Cohen and Ellen Witt

Just a couple years ago, someone dreamed up the great new idea of self-serve frozen yogurt sold by the ounce. It all started with one shop offering a multitude of flavor options and toppings galore ready to pour on at your own discretion (or temptation, as the case may be). The appeal was too good for any yogurt lover to deny.

If you live in a city that’s anything like Atlanta, the number of yogurt shops has probably grown to staggering heights over the past two years. Chances are, there are so many locations available to you that you aren’t even familiar with them all.

Within just miles of our office, we have Menchie’s, TCBY, Freshens, Yogli Mogli, Cowlicks, Yoforia, Yogurberry, Pinkberry, Frutella, Swirll and The Yogurt Tap, to name quite a few. In fact, in case we ever find ourselves in unfamiliar territory and desperate to find the closest shop, there’s an app for that… we wouldn’t want to overheat or undersugar.

The new yogurt concept was clearly just as enticing to all of us as it was to all of those people looking for the next big idea – so enticing that about 200 other dreamers decided to jump on board and copy it. Most of them have a slightly different twist – tart flavors, organic ingredients, probiotics, yogurt floats, designer or gourmet toppings – but they all go back to the same basic idea. And why is it that so many people have copied the same basic idea? If you ask me, they must have thought they could do better than the shop two blocks over.

This trend of jumping into someone else’s next big idea is something we’ve seen on different levels in the world of cupcakes and coffee shops. Just as quickly we watch new shops open, we see them close. Even Starbucks has suffered from its own growth.

As the consumer, we face so many options that we can’t choose – we freeze in our footsteps. That feeling we get when we spoil ourselves with that extra special yogurt is no longer so special. We have too much of a good thing.

Where do you think this is heading? Is the yogurt business in cannibalization mode? Will the trend-followers ever learn that too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing?

Let’s face it.  Most of us didn’t have to do much growing up to learn that our world is full of copycats. Now, with the way technology works and ideas travel at the speed of the Internet, succeeding in a retail business means the concept is so good that the copycats don’t want to copy it, most likely because it’s too difficult to do well. The dream is too distant to achieve, so they might as well just come on over and support yours.

The moral to the story is this… The next time you think about starting your own business, don’t drive around the block looking for the next big thing. Think of something new. Think of something unique. And think of something different. The science of business doesn’t always follow the laws of math. In this case, one too many positives can take us into the negative.

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