Less is More?
February 27, 2019
by Sky King, assistant professor of marketing, Weber State University
Most people have heard the phrase “less is more.” Is this a strategy that works well in business? This is a question that most people would respond by answering, ‘it depends.’ A lot of very successful companies have offered their customers relatively less than their competitors and have still been successful. Why can some companies be successful offering less and others not? I posit that one of the reasons why some companies can be successful doing this is because what they do offer (even though it may be less quantitatively) is very important for the customer and they do it better than their competitors. Google is a great example of this.
THE CASE OF GOOGLE
Before Google became a powerhouse search engine, MSN, Yahoo!, and others were dominating the industry. MSN and Yahoo! gave customers the ability to not only search the internet for information, but also gave them the ability to customize a web page with information. Many individuals loaded their pages with stock prices, sports news, weather forecasts, and more. However Google decided to offer none of that except for a single search bar in the middle of the page. One may have thought, how will Google compete in this industry this way? Why would a consumer choose to use a search engine that does not offer those extra features like MSN or Yahoo!?
The answer is quite simple, less is more. Less is more is a philosophy that can work if what you DO offer is what customers want the most and you do it better than the competition. The reason less is more in this case is that Google understood why individuals use a search engine and what is most important to them while doing so. Individuals use a search engine first and foremost to search for information. They took out all the extra stuff that isn’t as important at the time of a search and compensated it with a very fast loading speed. The loading speed after a search was much faster than the other search engines. Google felt that they could compete even if they didn’t have the latest stock prices, news updates, or weather on its search page.
THE FOOD INDUSTRY
Can this strategy work in the food industry? IN-N-OUT BURGER is a company that also does a good job with offering less. Compared to other fast food restaurants, IN-N-OUT BURGER offers a stripped-down, minimal menu. It doesn’t even have a kid’s menu! How could IN-N-OUT BURGER compete without a kid’s menu? IN-N-OUT BURGER compensates a small menu with quick service, high quality food, great customer service, and customers can see their food being made fresh. And consumers and their kids love it! Other restaurants are similarly being successful offering a smaller menu.
In today’s market, customers want options. However, there are ways to successfully compete in the market place by offering less. Using a less is more strategy can be effective if what is offered is what consumers value most and if it is done better than the competition.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sky King joined the faculty of Weber State University in 2016 and serves as an assistant professor of marketing at the Goddard School of Business & Economics.
In addition to BS and MBA degrees from Weber State University, King holds a Ph.D. in marketing from Washington State University. He is teaching a variety of marketing classes in the Goddard School's undergraduate and graduate programs.
King's research focuses on non-profit marketing, consumer financial decision making and consumer time orientation.