Weekly Thoughts


Health Muffins

Last summer, we were posted up at our favorite coffee shop to get some work done when we started to feel increasingly hungry.  We ambled up to the counter, and, after perusing the options we settled for the Health Muffin.  We confessed to the barista (who turned out to be the business owner) that we felt a bit sheepish ordering a “Health” Muffin since, as far as we can tell, most muffins are basically socially acceptable breakfast cupcakes.  The franchisee agreed and proceeded to tell us an interesting story. 

Years ago, the coffee shop owner had a bit of a problem.  His Morning Glory Muffin (a muffin with raisins, carrots, and nuts) was just not selling, leading to spoilage.  After thinking about it a bit, he changed the name from Morning Glory Muffin to Health Muffin.  Almost immediately, the exact same muffin became by far his best-selling baked good, a rank that continues to this day.

The coffee shop owner thinks this is because people rationalize the decision to consume what is clearly a piece of carrot cake without icing by letting themselves believe the choice is “healthy” solely because the label says so.  To be fair, a muffin with raisins, carrots, and nuts is marginally better than its chocolate chip counterpart, but still, let’s not get too carried away. 

This story is interesting to us for two reasons.  First, positioning matters.  Seemingly small adjustments can create large differences.  Is your pricing high or are you offering a premium product?  Is your house old or is it charming?  Is your new program “tech-enabled” or does it just have fewer touchpoints?  If we’re having trouble with something, we always try to think how it might look if we approach the situation with a different mindset.  Typically, the hardest part of this is getting out of the victim mentality (i.e., this is happening “to us”) and changing the story we tell ourselves. 

Second, good small business operators, like the aforementioned barista-operator-muffin-marketing-genius, are always tinkering.  She doesn’t wait for commands to come down from some nameless authority telling her what to do or wait around for somebody to come fix her problems.  The business owner who accepts that Morning Glory Muffins just don’t sell is not going to last for long.  A good operator sees a situation and adjusts, observes, adjusts, observes, adjusts, observes… you get the point.  She rarely accepts things as they are, she views herself as empowered to make a dent in the world. 

Now, whenever we are at that coffee shop, we chuckle when we see the Health Muffins laid out on the counter.  Sometimes, we order the Health Muffin just to support the business owner’s moxy.  We also enjoy every last bite of that delicious high-sugar/fat/carb “health” explosion.

Have a great week,

Your Chenmark Team

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