Godin: Hide Your Products?

9 10 2010
Sign outside McDonald's Plaza, one of the four...

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Having debated or coached debate for years can sometimes be a problem for me. I still want to get into argumentative mode when I see some shaky logic. Seth Godin's latest quip is sitting on a teetertotter. 

I'm going to quote the whole thing because it's so short:

Ubiquitous distribution is overrated

Some industries (like book publishers and analgesic makers) believe that they best serve their audience when the product is available everywhere. It's pretty rare to find a book that's only available in one chain of bookstores, or a pain reliever that's only in one sort of drugstore.

The thing is, scarcity creates value. You can't get a Pepsi at McDonald's. You can't buy Hermes at Target. By limiting choice, you can create value. Exclusivity is often underrated.

True that simple economics will tell you that scarcity creates value. Ubiquitous, for those reaching for the dictionary, means "omnipresent" or like being everywhere at once.

The premise or conclusion that scarcity is good for a product because it creates value might generally be true. But ask McDonald's, Walgreens, Coke, etc if that is true. Do you think a customer, with the limited choice of sodas at McDonald's isn't going back there? 

As the producer of the book in question, or the analgesic (what was up with that product choice?), why would you want to be limited where you can sell it? Do you honestly think that Pepsi would not LOVE to share space with Coke in various fast food joints? That's not a function of scarcity. Take his idea to the "logical" conclusion, you'd want typical consumer products in only selective locations?

The Hermes example might fit the bill, but when you talking about a branded product built on exclusivity, it has less to do with scarcity than it has to do with just simply knowing your market and customers, no? I'm sure Hermes, which does have a store locator on their website, knows their customers well enough to know that putting a $140 calf leather skin keychain in Target just isn't going to move.

This could be considered an appeal to complexity in arguing lingo. I prefer to think that as a hasty generalization, we should not ignore audience, or more to the point, customer, analysis.

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