This week in Practically Friday we're looking at a forthcoming study in the Journal of Consumer Research by University of Chicago professors Ryan Rahinel and Joseph P. Redden. It is about Tostitos, and it could have applications to your startup: if you sell two products that are consumed together, you could have an advantage over rivals that don’t. The study is not published yet, but there are press release summaries e.g. here and here.
Rahinel and Redden examine consumer preferences surrounding complementary goods—products that go together, like peanut butter and jelly, mashed potatoes and gravy, or if you are me, balsamic vinegar and anything. Rahinel and Redden specifically looked at Tostitos brand chips & salsa. In one study, they gave consumers various Tostitos chips & salsa products but gave the products fictional names. If consumers were told the foods were from the same brand, they reported liking the chips & salsa more. In a second study, consumers ate various Tostitos chips & salsa products but were told the products were from separate Brand A and Brand B. If told the brands worked together on product research and design, consumers reported enjoying them more. The bottom line is that consumers appear to want matching brands.
You might already have enough trouble developing a single product or service. But you have to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and there’s only so much you can do by specializing with one product. You could be leaving money on the table by ignoring a good or service that naturally pairs with what you are doing already. If we think outside of food/consumable products, for example, Nike started selling running shoes that paired with iPods. Lark is expanding their sleep monitoring product into a general health and well-being product. It might not be enough to just be aware of what your product or service complements; developing that complementary good could be the key to success.