Great Ideas Often Start Out Merely Good

When I was growing up in Columbus, Ohio, in the 70s and 80s a new product line was introduced at the Big Bear grocery store: white label products. This was one of the first experiments with this new kind of consumer product.

The original white label products actually had white labels on them! A can of beans would have a white label and large text saying ‘Beans.’ The idea was that the products were offered at a lower price point because they didn’t have large marketing expenses built in to get people to buy them. (A huge part of the cost of many consumer food items is from marketing rather than raw materials and processing.)

Now white label products carry the brand of the supermarket selling them rather than just ‘Beans.’ Turns out consumers like the comfort of a brand when making a buying decision and adding the supermarket’s brand to a product spreads out their marketing costs across more products, allowing either lower price points or higher profits (or a bit of both).

The overall lesson here is that providing true white label products was a good idea. It lowered prices significantly. But it wasn’t a great idea until stores married it to their own brand.

Give your good ideas a shot and look to see how you can improve upon them. Most great ideas don’t start out that way.

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