Further devaluation of the PowerBar brand?
i don't use PowerGel for biking or running, but it's never proven as useful as the Hammer Gel, Clif Shots or Jelly Belly Sport Beans i normally use. anyway, i wasn't shocked to see that PowerGel was in big-box retailers, though i was slightly saddened for the brand. anytime a brand goes big box, especially Wal-Mart, a level of overall brand devaluation occurs. a second level of devaluation occurs within the minds of certain consumer demos. even if the product hasn't changed (and many times, mass distribution allows the product to be improved), there's a perception attached that it's the quantity upsets the quality.
Target (also carrying PowerGel) is at least a step up from Wally World...although Target's retailing of Eddie Bauer products didn't do as well for that brand as it's carrying of Mossimo, which has darn near revived and sustained the surf-tastic clothing company. it's always a risk for a brand. the PowerBar brand has been mass for quite some time. PowerBar has always been the standby at gas stations (not to say i haven't appreciated grabbing one when i've needed to refuel mid-route). think about the early days of PowerAde vs. Gatorade (which was available darn near everywhere). Now you can get PowerAde in vending machines, fast food joints, etc.
i'm sure PowerBar has a solid business strategy for it's distribution plan. it certainly does fill a certain market space by being available and cheap en masse. but, i would argue that it's losing its credibility among certain niche groups of athletes. product aside (gels are very personal, so i'm not going to get into an argument for or against PowerGel's ability to work - that's not the point of this post), placement defines the product's worth just as much as what the product is made of. i like having to go out of my way to find my Hammer Gel at specialty outdoor or multi-sport shops. on some level, it shows me that there's an exclusivity of which i want to be a part.
i agree with jason that there is merit in the cost (especially if PowerGel is your gel of choice - jackpot for your wallet!). mass placement increases the product volume and lowers the cost, while upping the opportunity to supplement a wider group of consumers' workouts with a nutritional strategy. and yes, i do dig the 4x sodium mixture PowerGel includes, although i prefer to get that sodium from pringles (those things taste so dang good mid-run). athletic supplements and gear are already so freakin' expensive that doing many sports right is a bit out of the realm for many athletes. the cheaper the better in many cases.
so the question is, where's the balance between growth and exclusivity? the answer isn't above, certainly, but i'd love to hear thoughts. at the end of the day, a brand must first know who its customer is and where to engage that customer. one could argue that PowerBar is simply being successful at creating a strategy based on those two insights. time will tell.
what brands have you loved until you found them at the mega mall? tales of brand infidelity? any stories of brand death or survival at the hands of big-box retailers?
on a different note, it's been too long since i've recommended some music: Devendra Banhart. so there you be.