THE BLOG
07/16/2014 10:49 am ET Updated Sep 15, 2014

Message in a Bottle: How 'The Marmite Effect' Can Work for Your Business

It's very salty. Some people find the flavor savory. Many more won't touch the stuff. You can spread it thinly on a crisp or cracker, or use a spoonful to make a vegetarian faux-beef broth. It's called Marmite, "Made of 100 percent British Yeast", an esteemed historic product in the UK, with a presence wherever British people live and work. And this bulbous little jar with its dark, funky, vitamin-rich contents at one point launched a massive campaign, which posed the question "Love it or hate it?" to its consumers. Whether they loved it or hated it, the feeling was always very passionate and never middle of the road.

So what I call "The Marmite Effect", therefore, is polarizing. It's the message that your product or service is not for everyone, and that's more than okay: It is an ideal position for winning shares in an overcrowded and fickle market. My husband and business partner Raymond, always says you're ahead of the game if you "tick off 80 percent, but turn on 20 percent."

This runs counter to a culture of wanting to please everyone. Pleasing everyone does not build an iconic brand. A company which attempts to appeal to every potential shopper does not truly know its audience, and as such, will never know exactly what they want, or why. It's extremely important that, as a brand, people know who you are, what you do and WHY you do it. Once they know all of that, let them decide if they like you. The very qualities which some may not like, are the same qualities which will bond your true customer to you for life, like a tangy, yeasty whiff of Marmite (Marmite fans can't resist stealing dabs straight out of the jar and tea-time can't come soon enough!)

I also see this in the personal care arena, which is the market 'space' that I work in. Many spas and salons enter the marketplace believing that they should be full-service, offering all types of services and products to everyone. I generally believe that this is a strategic error. Specialization often means mastery. You see this, for example, in the nail care arena. It is now impossible to compete financially with the small, family-run nail parlors which one encounters on every street corner in Los Angeles, New York, and many American cities. We all develop our favorites for a mani-pedi, but unless hands and feet are their calling, I advise new spa owners to relinquish that particular territory, and leave it to the corner shop.

With the Marmite Effect as my guide, I'm reminded of another food product whenever I'm coaching an entrepreneur or offering guidance to a manager. That product is 'Moxie', and it's a word I just love using. Moxie was the first energy-drink, a patent medicine introduced to compete with alcohol and then-legal cocaine (!) as a cure-all. In short, moxie can also be defined as a force of character and determination. It starts with knowing who you are and what you want, as a brand, and as a person. People may discourage what you're doing, or where you're going, and they may love or hate your entrepreneurial idea. But never forget your moxie and let it guide you on your journey to success, and perhaps notoriety!

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