In the practical mechanics of growing or scaling a business, there exists a perpetual debate on the
most effective approach to building a successful venture. One school of thought, championed by
acclaimed professors in MBA programs, advocates for a streamlined approach: one product, one
message, one channel, and one target audience. This strategy hinges on the principle of simplicity
and focus. Proponents argue that by concentrating efforts on a singular product, conveying a clear
message, utilising a specific channel, and targeting a distinct audience, businesses can streamline
their operations, enhance brand identity, and foster customer loyalty.
On the flip side, another school of thought, also supported by reputable business scholars,
champions continuous innovation and diversification. According to this perspective, the business
landscape is dynamic, requiring companies to adapt and evolve constantly. Scholars like the late
Professor Clayton Christensen, renowned for his disruptive innovation theory, emphasise the
importance of not only refining existing products but also innovating and creating new ones. This
approach acknowledges that consumer preferences change, technologies advance, and markets
shift, necessitating a proactive stance towards product development.
Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, a respected authority on competitive strategy,
supports the idea of focus and differentiation. He argues that to gain a competitive advantage,
businesses should choose to be either cost leaders, offering products at lower prices, or
differentiators, providing unique products or services. This perspective aligns with the one-product,
one-message, one-channel, and one-target-audience approach.
However, professors like Rita McGrath from Columbia Business School present a contrasting
viewpoint. She advocates for a more fluid strategy, emphasising the importance of continuously
exploring new opportunities and being ready to pivot when necessary. In her book "The End of
Competitive Advantage" McGrath challenges the traditional notion of sustainable competitive
advantage, urging businesses to focus on agility and adaptability.
Examples From Startups to Billion-Dollar Enterprises
Companies like Dropbox from their start-up phase exemplify the streamlined approach. Dropbox,
with its singular focus on cloud storage solutions, clear messaging, and targeted marketing,
successfully gained a devoted user base. Conversely, technology giants like Apple embody the
dynamic strategy, perpetually innovating their product lines, introducing new devices, and
diversifying their services to adapt to evolving consumer demands.
In the mid-range revenue segments, companies such as Patagonia epitomise focus and
differentiation. Patagonia's dedication to sustainable products and its clear messaging on
environmental responsibility have created a distinctive brand identity, attracting environmentally
conscious consumers. In contrast, Amazon epitomises continuous innovation, expanding their
product offerings, venturing into new markets, and pioneering innovations such as Amazon Web
Services (AWS) to maintain their competitive edge.
At the higher echelons of the business world, multinational corporations like Procter & Gamble
maintains a portfolio of diverse products under different brands, with their focus on continuous
development and acquisition of new brands, in the pursuit of sustainable growth.
US YouTuber sensation, Marie Forleo created a digital empire that includes Marie TV, B-School,
Books and a Copy Writing Program, when asked what she wished she did differently, her answer was
having the courage to continually improve and develop new products.
For both new startups and established businesses, the continuous improvement of products is not
just a strategy but a necessity. It is a fundamental aspect of staying competitive, meeting ever-
changing customer demands, and ensuring long-term sustainability. Innovations in technology, shifts
in consumer preferences, and emerging market trends demand that businesses adapt and refine
their offerings. By consistently enhancing products, companies can not only attract new customers
but also retain existing ones, building brand loyalty and trust. Moreover, the process of striving for
better products fosters an internal culture of creativity and solutions finding. Embracing a mindset of
constant improvement not only fuels growth but also strengthens a company's resilience in the face
of challenges, ensuring its relevance and success.
The debate between a focused, singular approach and a dynamic, innovative strategy remains a
cornerstone of business theory. The choice between one product, one message, one channel, and
one target audience, and continuous product improvement and diversification ultimately depends
on the nature of the business, its industry, and the savviness and preferences of its leaders.
Successful entrepreneurs and business leaders are extremely focused on their approach, that they
have the right team and that they are continually adapting their strategies to the ever-changing
demands of the market, ensuring both stability and innovation coexist in their ventures.