In the world of copycats, be an original. The saying could not be more valuable when it comes to brands. Sharing look, feel and identity too closely with competition means brand value is relegated to least common denominator.
In the years I have lived in Greensboro, there have always been a few places to get ice cream. There were Baskin Robbins, Carvel, Ben & Jerry’s and, for something a bit different, there were two TCBYs. I say “were” because in rolled Coldstone (with four to five locations within city limits) and ice cream soon snuffed out the TCBY’s frozen yogurt business, which shortly thereafter closed both locations.
There is certainly something to be said for the role heavy competition had on the closings. Greensboro seemed, at the time, to be right at the breaking point in terms of the ice cream to human ratio. But, alas, here we are, a couple of years after the TCBY closings with all of the original ice-cream shops still in business, and somehow Greensboro is now sustaining even more frozen treat locations resulting from the current FroYo craze that is second in “hip” only to cupcake shops. With FroYo chains opening at what seems to be a one-every-six months basis, there really is no telling just how much frozen treats Greensboroeons can consume.
While competition might have appeared heavy, the simple fact is that TCBY’s fall was due to a shortage of a meaningful brand, not a shortage of demand. TCBY was different but differentiation was only based on the value of its product. That’s not enough, especially when the reasons for choosing the TCBY brand were the same as choosing the rest.
A differentiator of product value can only go so far and is vulnerable when something new, like Coldstone’s mixing in of toppings, becomes the more exciting form of “different.”
TCBY, however, has noticed a rebound of a FroYo craze. (FroYo is hip lingo for frozen yogurt.) Yet, in trying to reclaim relevancy in that market, it has chosen to copy the “hip” tone and feel of the competition instead of staking out its own identity.
If you take a look at TCBY’s redesigned stores, a sort of rebrand, you would confuse the layout, color palette, design, and messaging with the FroYo location that I can assume exists right near you. TCBY needs to be careful at how similar it appears to these new chains that are popping up. The more it mimics, the more vanilla it becomes. In an attempt to become like the rest, TCBY blands itself so much it just becomes more noise in the already noisy FroYo market.