C&T Q&A – How do I manage multiple product lines? To combine or not to combine…

how do I manage multiple product lines?


This week’s question is from Kelly, who writes:

Hey Jess!

What’s the best way to include multiple lines (which aren’t necessarily a similar product to your dominant line) in your business? For example – mainly selling watercolour paintings, but also wanting to sell t-shirts. So the two lines are both arty (and could overlap to a point), but are still considered to be separate.

Are you better off creating a new ‘name’ for that line, which could be a business name I guess, and using a ‘made by _____’ under that logo, or is it still an option to just sell it under the same business?

Possibly not the best example ever, but hopefully enough for you to go on!

 

Thanks for this one, Kelly, I know it’s one many of us ask ourselves, as creative types are notorious for coming up with new ideas and trying new things constantly!

The answer to this one really boils down to one thing – do the multiple lines have enough in common to be branded the same?

In your example listed above – if you’re selling watercolour prints, and it’s those same pieces of artwork on the t-shirts, then absolutely they can be in the same shop. In this case, the product is actually the artwork – the prints/tees/cards/stickers etc etc are simply the medium on which people can purchase the product.

So long as your branding/photography is consistent and complimentary across all the different product types, this can work really well.

However, there are times when the product lines are so disparate that it is better to completely separate them.

I’ll give you an example from my own life.

I’ve been running Epheriell since 2008, and by around 2010 I had developed a defined brand and product type. I make and sell eco-conscious, simple, contemporary sterling silver jewellery. Within that overarching brand, I can play around with a number of different product lines… but in the end, they all reflect this overall brand message.

So, when I decided I’d like to play around with vintage-style jewellery because I’d been wearing a lot of vintage clothes, I deliberately decided to create a completely separate brand and shop – Vintette.

This was a pretty easy decision to make. I knew the jewellery style would be completely different. It would have a different price-point. It would be more assembly jewellery rather than handmade from raw materials.

In brief – I did not want to dilute my Epheriell brand by mixing Vintette-style jewellery in with it.

By doing things separately, I was able to develop 2 completely different and distinct brands… despite the fact that both were jewellery.

Of course, I still talked about both brands on my blog and on my single twitter account. In other words, as you mention above, Kelly – they were both brands ‘made by Jess Van Den’.

If you have an existing brand/product line, and you have an idea for a new line, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my new idea have anything in common with my existing brand? {For example: yes, both of them are jewellery}
  • Will incorporating my new idea into my existing brand compliment and improve my brand/shop overall, or dilute it? {Vintette is a vastly different style, a different price point, and incorporating it with Epheriell will dilute the Epheriell brand}
  • Do I have the time/energy to manage two separate brands/shops? {At the time, yes, because my business was still growing. As you can see if you visit the Vintette shop now, I’ve closed it to focus on my more successful brands. You can only do so much!}

Don’t make the mistake of turning your shop into a ‘little bit of everything’ brand.

Be the person who makes ‘_____________’. You’ll have more success building a business (at least in the beginning) if you have a very strong brand focus.

Have you ever come up against this question? How did you handle it?

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