NOTE: This blog post was originally written for an appeared on the NEXT Marketing Agency’s website, which is no longer in use. I am posting it here to showcase a reference to my portfolio. This post explains the writing I did for this marketing agency: Being a marketing writer / ghost blogger for a marketing agency
We know that finding a niche in marketing is important. But how often do we consider that sometimes, niche marketing is not enough? If your niche is getting over crowded with alternatives, or you are entering a highly competitive market that already has its niche, fear not. You don’t have to start over, or look elsewhere to find something new. Sometimes you just have to find out what your further specialty is. Here are 4 examples of companies that did the same, and hit the jackpot when doing so – we hope they inspire you!
Niche marketing example 1: A really manly cupcake bakery
Perhaps the best example of finding a niche within a niche is our favourite (since it’s so fun): Butch Bakery. What is their niche? Cupcakes. What is their niche within a niche? Mancakes. You heard right. These guys were on the Rachael Ray show in 2010, demonstrating how they put beer, bacon, and well, lots of alcohol into cupcakes, calling it “butch.”
As we know, the cupcake buzz hit us in North America a few years ago, and that was already a niche within the niche of a generic bakery. Stores that only sell cupcakes? How can it be? But it was. Then reality TV set in, and shows like Cupcake Wars on the Food Network showed us that this was no small market – cupcake shops all over the continent were popping up everywhere. In Vancouver we have our own Cupcakes by Heather and Lori, complete with their own TV show.
But that market got saturated (and still is). But most of them targeted the cutesy girly audience. So these guys in New York were like, “we’re men, and we like cupcakes too man.” And then Butch Bakery was born. And they didn’t stop at targeting “men” in the general sense (the way girls would think of it). As their “About” page describes, the highly educated law school graduate decided:
“It was time for a bakery company that produced masculine themed products, but stayed far away from the cliché – in other words, Butch Bakery would have no “golf tee” cupcakes, or “baseball” cupcakes, but would have products that guys would love.”
Since the inception of this very manly niche, the company has been featured in Inc. Magazine, BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur, Fox Business and so much more. I mean, who wouldn’t want to cover a story on mancakes? Right? Success story to inspire? We think so!
Niche marketing example 2: A device that protects your bananas
Many businesses succeed out of sheer luck, and some because of careful research and planning and tactical execution. We can’t tell which category the Banana Guard falls into. After all, it’s not every day we sit on our couch pondering life’s meaning and think, “I wish there was a way to prevent my bananas from bruising.”
These guys could have been like most companies, trying to compete with Tupperware by creating yet another food container – metal, glass, portion-controlled, oven-worthy; who’s keeping track of the alternatives these days? But noooo, they weren’t thinking of a container for any kind of food. They thought of bananas specifically. And so the Banana Guard was born.
You might remember this Canadian company featured on Dragon’s Den, where they announced that due to the success of their banana-keeping device, they would be launching fruit protectors. Which they did, by the way, and they call it a “Froot Guard” (gotta love the spelling). They’ve also now got a “S’which Guard” for sandwiches (who needs Ziplocs anyway?).
We love the playfulness of their brand, which is all out about taking fruit protection seriously. Their media page (yes, they got lots of media coverage too) says, “Check out what some of our allies have to say about our crusade to end fruit trauma, one emergency at a time.”
So let this be an inspiration to you; when thinking of making a product in a saturated market, think of how it can help just one thing. Even if that thing is a banana.
Niche marketing example 3: A nice way to make geese fat so we can have foie gras more often
This niche within a niche may not have started out as a marketing ploy. But it sure did turn into a genius business idea. For those of you who don’t know (which is probably most of us), foie gras is a French cuisine treat made by force-feeding geese, so their liver gets full of fat. But it’s a really mean way to treat a duck or a goose. So European countries, as well as some places in the U.S.A. and elsewhere have outlawed the practice.
Enter Dan Barber and his TED Talk on a small farmer in Spain who figured out how to make foie gras the way geese can agree with: naturally. This fascinating story tells of a farm without cages, geese that like eating, and even geese that call other geese to come eat with them. And it produces really, really good foie gras. Animal rights problem solved! (Well except that we have to kill the animal to eat its liver, but still).
The French got mad that the Spanish figured out a way to make foie gras without force-feeding, but the little guy in Spain has won an award, and can now sell in countries that have outlawed the cruel food. His innovation has been featured on more than just TED Talks too.
Niche marketing lessoned learned: find a niche within a niche that’s a new and better way to make what already exists.
Niche marketing example 4: Wine sold in a cup
This niche was interesting to learn about because it wasn’t just a new kind of wine, which many niche marketers might try to go for. Instead, this company focused on the method of delivery – the container that holds the wine. Why not sell it by the glass?
Copa Di Vino was on Shark Tank explaining that their product would allow wine to be sold by the glass – no corkscrews, no bottles going bad, no fuss. It would make wine accessible where traditionally only alcohol served in individual portions could be served (like golf courses or stadiums). The shape of the cup itself maintained the classy-ness of wine (after all, how could we ever put wine in a beer bottle, right? Unthinkable!). In short, someone thought of an idea we all should have thought of a long time ago.
The best lesson and inspiration learned from this niche within the wine niche (or the individual alcohol servings niche, we could also say), is to look no further than the no-brainers. If something should be and it’s not, make it happen!
What have we learned from all this?
Finding a niche within a niche is not as hard as we may think! We are often drawn to do what someone else has already done, or we think it’s too hard to think of a new idea. But it’s ok to take a niche that already exists, and take it one step further. Here is how to go about your brainstorming:
- Find a new audience that likes a product already but needs it to be tailored towards them (i.e. men like cupcakes, but pink frilly aprons will only alienate them, not include them).
- Create a product that is useful for only one thing, no matter how mundane. Operative word here is useful. If it’s a problem many people have and you can solve it, go for it (like the banana guard being only useful for bananas. You can’t even use that thing for any food if you wanted to! And yet, many people hate bruised bananas….).
- Develop a new method of creating something that exists already. Eco-friendly has been a buzz lately in the product and retail world, so you can go that route, or find another (like a ‘humane’ way to produce a certain popular food). Think of time-savers, money-savers and convenience-makers as alternative methods of production.
- Focus on the packaging, or delivery of something that exists already. These are the most obvious yet overlooked ideas. If a new colour on an already widely available item will do the trick, then that might be your jackpot (think of how popular pink electronics got a few years ago). If it’s a smaller, more portable size of something we’re already used to, then even better (as in the case of Copa Di Vino).