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What can hot dog buns teach us about marketing?

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

Most of the hot dog buns that I've met have always been split on the side. Then on a recent trip to my local grocery store, I came across buns that were split on the top. I thought this was a novel brand-new idea, "split on the top" was genius. They would help keep the toppings, chili, onions, cheese, relish, and mustard (not ketchup, never ketchup), in place way better than the old "split on the side buns". However, when I bought my next bunch of dogs, I went right to the "split on the side" buns. The "split on the top" buns are way more practical, sturdy, and super-efficient for what I wanted from a bun but it wasn't my bun of choice that day.

Then I found out that "split on the top" buns are not new and have been around forever. They are most popular in the Northeast but can be found everywhere. They are not only used for hot dogs but are better for brats and sausages that allow you to pile on the toppings. And they are great for lobster rolls, another sign of their superiority over other buns. But they still haven't found their way into my shopping cart. Nor have they found their way into most shopping carts. The "split on the side" buns still account for a majority, a large majority, of all bun sales according to the leader in that industry.

So what does all of this have to do with Marketing? Know your audience. A superior product doesn't always mean sales success. Even the best marketing strategy cannot overturn decades of habits. Also, be aware of geographical differences and preferences. Marketing a line of "split on top" buns in the Northeast could lead to a successful campaign. However, try that in the Midwest and you may just be wasting a lot of dough (pun intended).

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