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SME Branding Lesson #14 – The Downsides of Niche Brands

Having written about niche brands and why they are a great way to dominate the market place, demand higher prices and have the ‘expert factor’, here are some thoughts on potential issues with being so specialised and targeted.
Don’t Get Stuck in a Niche

Brand diversity
Niche can be too niche...

I have a vast portfolio of work within the hotel and leisure industry as well as arts and culture. However, was I to concentrate on these sectors alone, a number of issues would occur, including the number of clients I can work with without causing problems with competition, the fear of clients that my work may be repetitive if I am not exposed to other markets, the danger of the industry being in trouble and marketing budgets being cut; not to forget my own personal longing for diverse problem solving within a multitude of industries and company sizes.I guess it is about finding the right balance between being a ‘Jack of all trades’ and a master of not a lot of industry.
Whatever your niche market, make sure your product and service are far reaching and adaptable to a larger playing field.
Keep Your Eye on the Mainstream 
Mainstream brands
Step out of the niche and into the world of household brand names

Starting out as a niche, you may find yourself comfortable and secure – but it may be a good idea to strive for a larger market long-term. We all know the typical global ‘household brands’. Apple, for instance, used to be very focused on the designer’s market alone before breaking into the mainstream with their innovative iPod and iMac many years ago now.
Being a niche brand, you may never consider that step – but it’s a good one to aim for if you want to grow into a global brand with the relevant advantages of a much larger market and influence.That’s not to say mainstream is the ultimate solution for brands – BlackBerry are just abandoning the consumer market in favour of going back to their roots in targeting businesses, Dell is another example that struggled with trying to be everything to everyone.
Sometimes though, a niche (such as FairTrade for instance) becomes relevant and popular with a large part of society and is the next step for a brand.
So, if it suits your product, service and the demand on the markets, mainstream is a viable aim. On the upside, retailers are discovering more and more the power of niche brands and are offering smaller brands valuable shelf space.
Innovation is Key (again…)

brand Innovation
Make sure your niche has its place in the future

Even though you may be the expert in your field and have a great reputation, without innovation and pushing your brand and its boundaries, the competition will catch up and overtake you in the long run.Purchasing preferences even in specialised sectors change and evolve so be aware and step out of your comfort zone to explore new value-adding products and services – or markets.

Brand Strategy, niche branding

SME Branding Lesson #13 – The Power of the Niche

Widely publicised in recent years, one of the most popular choices for entrepreneurs is niche marketing. Whilst I would be careful with the trend of ‘finding a niche and building a website around it’, I think if a business has established a differentiating factor that sets it apart, the targeted approach of a niche brand may be the next step in securing brand loyalty and higher profit margins.

What is a niche brand?

In simple terms, a niche brand is a brand that addresses the need for a product or service that mainstream brands don’t provide for. It is a very specific brand appealing to a subset of the market.
Niche brands often withstand market forces better because they have increased brand loyalty and a prime position within their market segment.
A niche could be a luxury brand, such as Rolex or Hermes who only target the richest consumers – or it could be a shop selling household products for people with dermatitis, e.g. catering for a very specific need.

Some niche brands on or off the high street

The following are just a few samples I would consider niche brands – though some have made the break-through into the mass market.

Under the Nile clothing brand
Under the Nile is an organic clothing company for kids. Niche and boutique.

Trunki
Another niche brand that has grown to be part of the high street. After initial Dragon's Den disaster, Trunki is synonymous for bright, fun travel accessories for kids.

MeisterSinger
MeisterSinger is a super luxury niche brand. Don't ask how much it costs!

Hot Milk
Hot Milk lingerie is a refreshing maternity lingerie brand that is not afraid to put some humour into pregnancy...

Even Hotels
The hotel that is looking after your health. A niche with potential.

EO niche brands
Another niche brand in the beauty market

Ellas Kitchen
If you have children, you will probably know Ella's Kitchen. It's a regular in the supermarkets but an independent brand – a bit like Innocent.

Crocs
Everyone knows Crocs now – but the brand started as a niche and perhaps still is...

Avene niche brand
Avene has a beauty reputation

How can you find a niche?

Start with market research. If you don’t have a specific product yet, you can use a variety of online search tools to find out what consumers are interested in and if there is a range of products or services that can cater for their demand. You can use free tools, such as the Google keyword tool, to find out how many people search for a specific keyword and to find related terms to give you more ideas. Find something that has a good balance of demand and supply, so you can easily become the market leader and have sufficient interest in your product.
If you already have a product or service, consider the following: Which market are you in? Who are your customers? Think about to whom your product mostly speaks. What problem does your brand solve? Is there a recurring customer profile that works for your business?
Without trying to please everyone, you can become a market leader in a specific sub group and compete through your expert knowledge of your customer’s requirements.

Why should you find a niche?

In terms of branding, a niche means you automatically target a very specific segment of your target market, and thus you will be presented with some great opportunities of engaging with a willing crowd of enthusiasts. I just remember my interview with Steve from phILOFAXY, which gave me great insight into the nature of those Filofax fans – you could not wish for better brand ambassadors!

Filofax
A niche with continuing appeal – Filofax

Niche brands have the appeal of being expert and serving the individual, so you can benefit from better margins if your brand is right and from stronger loyalty if you fulfill your brand promise.
That also means that niche brands are often more resilient in a more difficult financial climate. And if your business is built on being profitable without needing mass sales, a drop in purchasing is not going to affect you as severely as mass product brands that suffer when the general public tightens their purse strings.
Building a niche brand also means that you have more opportunities within a chosen sector to become the expert, the market leader, the one to beat – and benefit from interest where big brands won’t bother because it is not worth their time and investment.

Any help out there?

There are a number of pod casts all around niche branding which are very interesting to listen to and who discuss a wide array of subjects relating to finding and marketing a niche brand. Of course you can always talk to me, too… 🙂
ViperChill
Internet Business Mastery
A lot of niche websites rely on internet marketing which both these pod casts address nicely. Any more gems out there, please let me know!

brand management, niche branding

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