I recently found myself searching the aisles of Dick’s Sporting Goods for yet another random piece of equipment. As I entered the back section of the store, three full aisles — plus a floor-to-ceiling wall display — of YETI merchandise stood before me. It was overwhelming. Cups, tumblers, coffee mugs, coolers, buckets, lunch bags, keychains, dog beds…dog beds. Really??? I couldn’t take it all in. There was more YETI in this one store than likely exists in all of the X-Files. (See what I did there?) And then it struck me. We’ve achieved what I have termed “peak YETI.”
The Ascent to the Top
Peak YETI happens quite visibly with consumer-facing brands but can also occur in a B2B context.
Essentially, here’s what happens: “Something” is born. Typically it’s a specific item (in YETI’s case, a cooler) or a core offering. It might be something unique, disruptive, or of extremely high quality. The “what” and the “why” matter less than the fact that whatever’s offered is rare and exclusive. It becomes desired, and people talk passionately about it. Communities are born and die-hard fans emerge. Often, the offering will achieve cult-like status. In many instances, demand outstrips supply.
What follows is a halcyon period when demand is met and expansion beyond the core offering occurs. This can go on for an extended period of time. Then, the brand and its offerings are everywhere. This is when companies must tread carefully, lest they oversaturate the market. When oversaturation occurs, the company has entered the danger zone and falls at risk of a decline. This is peak YETI.
Takeaways from the Path to Growth and Greatness
You’ve likely seen peak YETI play out in multiple ways with different products and services over the years. It’s also likely you’ve never stopped to think more deeply about this phenomenon. People often dismiss it with statements like “They got too big for their britches” or “They grew too quickly.” Your organization may never face the danger of sliding into peak YETI territory — the vast majority will not. However, you probably will use products and services that have — or will have — achieved peak YETI. Viewing the products and services you utilize through the peak YETI filter is a good way to evaluate potential risk. Further, considering the idea of peak YETI for your own organization can be a helpful strategic tool.
This post started by examining an exclusive offering that had transformed into something now available everywhere. But what if YETI had walked a different path? (1980s kids, remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books?)
What if, instead of its current growth trajectory, YETI had chosen to remain (relatively) rare and exclusive? Or perhaps expand in such a way so as to retain its shimmering allure?
I am not offering branding advice. (I am not a branding expert or a marketer. If you want one of those, I suggest you contact someone like my friend Anne Candido at Forthright People.) Instead, I’m suggesting you consider what enabled the conditions for peak YETI and ask yourself how those lessons apply to your organization.
Nearly every organization has the ability to tap into the fundamentals that enable peak YETI. It’s scary, though, so most of us don’t.
Begin by asking yourself:
- Who do we serve?
- Have we mapped our stakeholders?
- What do we do that inspires passion and loyalty?
- How might we increase that to create exclusivity and a sense of community?
These questions are starting points that will enable you to grapple with your organization’s larger consideration, “Why?”
The lift to create the kind of initial passion that YETI inspired may ultimately prove too great for your organization. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from taking the first steps on that journey. And should you find yourself approaching the danger zone known as peak YETI, remember this concept and focus on what got you there. It might not be possible to rewind the clock, but a value-based retrenchment may allow you to recapture ground you didn’t even realize you lost.
Got a question about peak YETI? Send me a YETI tumbler with your contact info. (You can pick one up almost anywhere these days). I’ll get right back to you.