Ancillary Products

Crystal Pepsi - A short-lived ancillary product?Here’s the thing with ancillary products: Every company has them; every company has trouble knowing what to do with them.

The common logic goes something like this:
A product needs complete marketing focus to succeed.
Ancillary products don’t get complete marketing focus (or else they wouldn’t be considered ancillary).
Therefore, ancillary products can’t succeed.

If you’re trying to compare your ancillary stuff to your bread and butter, then you’re probably right – they won’t succeed. But I think you have to accept ancillary stuff for what it is – it’s low hanging fruit, a by-product, that you might as well make a few dollars on if it provides some added value to a customer. When you look at it this way, then it makes sense. However, if you start looking to an ancillary line of products to start producing bigger bottom-line figures, then you’ve got the wrong idea.

When I worked at AdvoCare, we struggled severely with selling a pretty amazing skincare line, Definite Difference. The product works great, the market was open to it, and women were ready for something that they could especially sell. But it never really took off – for various reasons – most important of which was the fact that consumers didn’t want an AdvoCare Distributor selling them skincare (usually). They wanted the AdvoCare Distributor to keep selling them what they were good at – weight loss, energy and performance.

The temptation when you have a really good product filling an ancillary role is that you think you can break it into stardom, out of the ranks of ancillary and into the ranks of major product line. This will rarely, RARELY happen, and going down that path will only weaken those areas of strength where you do excel.

Keep the main thing the main thing, and take ancillary products for what they are: extras that don’t deserve much attention. But don’t always get rid of them – they have their place.


10 responses to “Ancillary Products

  1. What do you think if they would have created a new division/company that only sold skin care products? Would creating it’s own brand and corporate identity have allowed the problems you mentioned to be diffused? In essence, to remove the status of ancillary.

  2. you are trying to compare your ancillary stuff to your bread and butter, how.

  3. Tim –

    You’re implied suggestion is dead on, I think, although I don’t think it would have been a good fit specifically for AdvoCare (it’s a network marketing company). It has been done in the industry (Amway has Quixtar and Alticor).

    However, it usually IS a good idea. Create a brand and culture that DOES have the right to sell your goods – if its really good stuff that has potential to stand on its own.

    Daniel – I’m only comparing the ancillary to the bread and butter to point out that problems arise when that is indeed what we do. In other words, when you start to see your Crystal Pepsi as having as huge a market as regular Pepsi, you’ve got a problem.

  4. Pingback: Weightloss » Blog Archive » Ancillary Products

  5. I agree with Daniel. If by all accounts if it can stand on its own, make a new division. Toyota -> Scion, GM -> Saturn. Very interesting post, Brett!

  6. I think you also need to take in account the time spent on those products and whether spending that time on your main product would be more beneficial cost wise.

    things like, do your customer service reps no more about your main products? how much time training distributors, customer service people, and others do you spend for these ancillary products? if you spent that same amount of time and energy on your main products it might be worth more.

  7. Moth1 – I believe your point is the fundamental issue with ancillary products – how much time do they sacrifice. I call it Return on Attention (explained in link below):

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