Value Proposition: Avoiding the curse of the ‘Why Bother Brand’


Tidal. Yahoo Screen. “Speed 2: Cruise Control.” Your brand?

Some brands are so undifferentiated from other options, so derivative of competitors, the reaction they get from consumers is a shrug of the shoulders and an “Eh, why bother?”

Let me give you an example.


The “Why Bother Brand”

A burrito/Tex-Mex/Southwestern place recently opened in my neighborhood called Barberitos. I’d seen a few ads for it while flipping through local publications, and every time I did, I had the brief “Eh, why bother?” thought. After all, there were already enough perfectly fine burrito places, and this one didn’t seem any different. I always secretly thought about it as the perfect example of a “Why Bother Brand.” But just today, I got some data to back up my assertion …

Walker Ragland, Marketing Operations Specialist, MECLABS Institute (you may remember Walker from his social media test we wrote about in April), posted a Barberitos printout in our office and was boasting about just how good the food was there. That prompted Marketing Events Specialist Susan Warren to look it up on Yelp.

Out of 24 reviews, 15 compared Barberitos to a similar quick-serve restaurant, Moe’s Southwest Grill:

“It’s just like Moe’s Southwest Grill down to the T. The price is the same as Moe’s and so are all the food options (including the salsa bar).”

“Pretty much just seems like a dupe of Moe’s.”

“It’s very similar to Moe’s.”

“I thought it was an off brand Moe’s.”

Ah … so I wasn’t the only one who thought of Barberitos as a Why Bother Brand!

Now according to Walker, the food is exceptional. So much so that he printed out coupons and handed them out to everyone in the office. Every restaurant should make food that’s so good that it creates ambassadors like Walker. And as our research has shown, word of mouth is one of the most popular ways customer discover new products.


You can’t taste an ad

But if you’re running prints ads (like the Barberitos ads I saw), or have a website, or do any other form of paid promotion, good food and a quality product isn’t enough. The goal is to communicate the perception of that quality, along with the exclusivity of your offer. Potential customers don’t know what the resulting experience of purchasing your product is really like, they only perceive what you communicate with your marketing.

This doesn’t mean I think Barberitos print ads are a total failure. After all, they do raise awareness. When Walker mentioned Barberitos, I had seen enough of the ads to know they had a location in my neighborhood, so I was curious what Walker thought.

Also, you can have a viable business as a Why Bother Brand, at least for a short time. If the demand is high enough to consume all of the supply offered by your brand and the other Why Bother Brands, you will see profit … at least for a time. For example, during the fro-yo craze, there were frozen yogurt shops everywhere.

But your margins will be challenged. And if demand drops, or a disrupter with a strong brand enters your industry, your business will be doomed.

Another example where Why Bother Brands can be successful is when a convenient location is more important to the customer than a unique value proposition. Nail salons and laundromats are a great example. However, in this case too, a disrupter with a unique value proposition can upset the apple cart. For example, Starbucks.

Plus, if you’re running marketing and advertising and have a website, you should optimize them for effectiveness and not settle for good enough.

So, what ingredient was missing from Barberitos print ads?



How to avoid being a Why Bother Brand

According to MECLABS Institute’s patented methodology, the higher the appeal and exclusivity of a brand, product or offer, the more impactful the value proposition.

In Barberitos’ case, the appeal is pretty high for its ideal customer. How much do I desire this product? I love burritos, so a whole heck of a lot!

However, the exclusivity is almost nonexistent. Where else can I get this product? Several other places, including Moe’s.

To increase the exclusivity, and therefore the force of the value proposition, Barberitos must not only advertise its appeal but also its exclusivity. This may already exist, and there is hidden value that isn’t communicated in the advertising. Or it may make sense for Barberitos to tweak its business model to create exclusivity that is valued by the customer.

To give you an example in the same industry, look at Chipotle. The Mexican grill chain has recently had a few challenges with food safety that have to do more with operations than marketing and value proposition. But if we look back a few years to 2011, the chain reported a 25% profit margin! According to the “2010 Operations Report” by the National Restaurant Association and Deloitte & Touche LLP, the typical profit margin for a limited service restaurant was a mere 6%.

Why the huge difference? I would argue that a great deal of Chipotle’s success could be attributed to its value proposition. It had the same appeal as other burrito joints, but oh the exclusivity – food that’s a little higher quality: “food with integrity,” “real ingredients just taste better” and “simple, fresh food without artificial flavors or fillers.”

In fact, if you go to the Chipotle homepage today, you are clearly and boldly greeted with a message derived from that value proposition, which, when you click on it, leads to further support of that value prop – “Process not Processed: Step into our kitchen and see how it’s done.”

Do you have a Why Bother Brand?

How about your brand? Could your customers pick it out of a police lineup? Is an exclusivity factor pervasive through all of your marketing – from prints ads to website? If you’re unsure, here are a few steps you can take:

  • Create a competitive analysis to understand what other brands offer and how they message it
  • Check review sites, social media and forums about your industry to understand how customers talk about and perceive your company’s brand in relation to other brands
  • Categorize your products’ value, test different value focuses, formalize what you discover into a value proposition and distribute it within your company and to your agencies and other business partners to make sure it is infused in everything you do

By doing this, you’ll give people a reason to get up off their couch, get in their car and try your unique burrito.



After writing the rough draft of this blog post, one of our research analysts came by the content area and noticed a Barbaritos mention on a white board.

She said, “Oh, yeah, I used to eat there because they were the only place with ground turkey burritos. But not anymore, since they got rid of it without saying why.”

Ironically, this would be the perfect example of what I discussed in this blog post — some element of exclusivity.

In fairness, Barbaritos might have found the ground turkey option unprofitable, so I only mention it as an example. Her instant, unprompted reaction when discussing the ground turkey — they offered a value that I couldn’t get elsewhere which made me want to be their customer — is the resulting experience of a successful value proposition with exclusivity and what our brands should elicit from our ideal customers.


You might also like

Value Proposition Optimization Webinar: 7 real-world B2B and B2C webpages analyzed to help you best message your “only factor” [MECLABS Institute, Webinar]

Search Engine Marketing: Finding appeal for your PPC Ads

Do You Have the Right Value Proposition? How to test, measure, and integrate your Value Proposition online [From MarketingExperiments Web clinic]

Value Proposition Development online course [From MECLABS Institute, parent company of MarketingExperiments]

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