Your Business and The Broccoli Problem

Brett Welch | BC - Wednesday, April 30, 2008
My Aunt Susan, being a good mother, wants her son to eat Broccoli because it's healthy.

My cousin Ben, being a typical boy, doesn't want to eat Broccoli because it tastes bad. 

This gave me an idea, which I'm going to call "The Broccoli Problem". My aunt has very valid reasons to give her son broccoli - it's for his health. But her son resists - also for valid reasons that are relevant to him. The son will say:

Broccoli may be  good for you BUT it tastes terrible. 

Now Broccoli problems are everywhere, always contain a 'However' or a 'But' and are nearly always subjective (you complete the sentences) :

Lower taxes may stimulate a stagnant economy, HOWEVER ...

Your girlfriend may have a wonderful personality, BUT ...

George W. Bush may be a great leader, HOWEVER ...

I'll remain silent on how I'd complete those sentences, but here's where I'm going with this: The Broccoli Problem is a marketing problem that you probably need to think about. Complete this sentence:

Your product/service may be of great benefit to the market, HOWEVER ...

That's why I'm writing this post. Every business has, or once had, a Broccoli Problem that they have to solve. So, how did my Aunt solve hers?

Easy: she diced the broccoli up and baked it into a tasty Lasagne. To this very day, her son still doesn't realize he's eating a plateful of Broccoli Lasagne. 

This is one strategy of dealing with a Broccoli Problem - repackaging the broccoli to counteract the negative after the HOWEVER. I can think of two more strategies and I'm sure there's more:
  1. Repackaging the Negative.
  2. Removing the Negative.
  3. Embracing the Negative.

Repackaging The Negative

This is what my Aunt did - she put the broccoli in a tasty Lasagne, which negated the broccoli's taste while still passing on the health benefit. That's repackaging the negative. In business, a classic case of a repackaging the negative is the age-old payment plan. Think about this Broccoli problem:

The Prius is an eco-friendly, stylish car, BUT I can't afford it right now.

Imagine you're on the car lot saying this to the saleswoman. She'll shoot back "Ah, but have you heard of our payment plans?" By doing this, she's effectively negated your 'however' factor by repackaging the car in an easy to digest payment plan. 

When you repackage something, you're not changing the product itself. You're not changing the broccoli - you're changing the way it's presented, the nature of the deal or how the product is sold. Repackaging strategies nearly always revolve around ideas like:
  • Cost amortization (payment plans)
  • Bundling (selling X + Y + Z together)
  • Splitting (Selling X + Y separately instead of as one)
So you can see we're not changing the product. We're changing the way it's sold. That's repackaging. 

Repackaging a Broccoli problem isn't always the best solution, but sometimes it's the only solution you can feasibly implement. That's where the other two strategies, Removing the Negative and Embracing the Negative, come in.

I'll cover the other two strategies in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.