Today the cafeteria here at Tuck served “turkey and tofu meatloaf.”
Men like meatloaf. It’s man-food, like Sloppy Joes, ribs, and fried chicken. However, men don’t like ground turkey or tofu. If you eat stuff like that, other men will make fun of you.
Women, on the other hand, love replacing beef with healthier options like turkey or tofu. (Yes, I’m generalizing.) However, I have yet to meet a woman who ever got excited about eating meatloaf. Maybe it’s the name. Maybe it’s the shape. I don’t know, but it’s just not a very lady-like thing to eat.
You can bet that somewhere in some back kitchen at Tuck, somebody thought, “We’ll make the meatloaf that men want, but we’ll make it healthier like the women want, and everyone will buy it!” Well, let me assure you, no one bought it. When you try to please everyone, you please no one.
Basic marketing 101 teaches us to segment the market, select a segment to target, and then position your offering for that segment. By definition, targeting means selecting not only who you will serve, but just as importantly, who you won’t. It’s easy to find a market to go after. It’s much harder to ignore everyone else. (“We can’t just serve regular meatloaf. We’ll miss out on all the women!”)
Southwest Airlines is my favorite example of a focused, clearly positioned company. Legendary CEO Herb Kelleher said, “I can teach you the secret to running this airline in thirty seconds. This is it: We are THE low-fare airline. Once you understand that fact, you can make any decision about this company’s future as well as I can.”
He went on to provide an example of how this rule works in action:
“Tracy from marketing comes into your office. She says her surveys indicate that the passengers might enjoy a light entrée on the Houston to Las Vegas flight. All we offer is peanuts, and she thinks a nice chicken Caesar salad would be popular. What do you say? You say, ‘Tracy, will adding that chicken Caesar salad make us THE low-fare airline from Houston to Las Vegas? Because if it doesn’t help us become unchallenged low-fare airline, we’re not serving any damn chicken salad.”
Compare Southwest’s positioning to that of Scandinavian Airlines. SAS’s strategic focus is to “become the best airline in the world for the frequent business traveler.” When other airlines started converting their fleets to the larger, more fuel-efficient Airbus model, SAS continued using smaller DC-9 planes. Though they missed out on cost savings, this strategy allowed them to provide more frequent flights than competitors, and therefore more options for time-sensitive business travelers to choose from.
Southwest serves meatloaf. SAS serves turkey and tofu. They don’t try to serve both.
What do United, American, and Delta serve?