Some ideas need to be flushed down the drain. That’s what Dude Products CEO Sean Riley concluded after expanding the bro-themed flushable-wipe brand to include men’s deodorant and bath soaps, ignoring the advice of investor Mark Cuban. (Cuban owns 25% of the company.)
The new items weren’t disasters — Dude Products expects to make $90 million this year, up from $15.5 million in 2019 — but they’re now discontinued. In a recent LinkedIn post with 1,600 likes, Riley admitted to getting carried away with “shiny object syndrome.” He spoke with b. about why it’s important to stay laser-focused on your core product.
b.: When you started Dude Wipes, you were all about wipes for dudes. How did “shiny object syndrome” begin?
Riley: We thought we needed to do more to grow. So it [seemed] natural to extend into men’s grooming like Axe [did]. The truth is we needed to do less. Focus more. Our customers didn’t hate the [new] products. We hated the fact we lost focus … so we cut them.
At a certain level of market saturation, how is it possible to grow without adding new products?
Riley: The man who chases two rabbits catches neither. All the best brands do one thing well and they innovate the hell out of their current category: Tide, Charmin, Gillette, Bounty, Hefty. If you want to enter another category, create another brand. It’s that simple.
What brands or sectors get especially swept away with novelty?
Riley: The beverage industry is full of examples. [Many flavored water and energy drink companies] now offer alcoholic drinks. These are brands that mean health and hydration — now [they] mean partying and dehydration … to join an overcrowded space in hard seltzer?
It’s shortsighted and stupid. Most will kill their line extensions. Coors Light Hard Seltzer didn’t even last one year before being discontinued.
How did scaling back to basics help Dude Wipes grow again?
Riley: Because we whole-ass something and half-ass nothing. Concentrated energy equals concentrated results. … [We] laser-focus on growing market share. It’s still day one for Dude Wipes.