Once you learn a skill, there are two ways you might start thinking: learn something even more complex, or master that single skill. Think about jump roping. (Okay, that has nothing to do with business, but go with me.) You can learn how to jump rope fast and accurately, and you can do a lot for your fitness and enjoyment with just that effort—if you're the kind of person who likes to jump rope. Or, you can learn double dutch, which is a lot more complex, is social, and has all kinds of added challenges to it. But make this about business and it gets more difficult.
Double dutch in business
The other day, my girlfriend pointed out that Vitamin Water now makes a flavored lip balm. Think about this: a company who sells flavored water now sells a lip balm. Okay, they both touch your mouth, they both have flavor involved, but beyond that, there aren't a lot of crossover traits to this choice. So, if you're Vitamin Water, why would you do that?
There are a few reasons: maybe your category is saturated. Maybe you're thinking that you've already got loyalty for one product type, so you might as well stretch and see if you can cover another product type. Maybe you're just seeing what sticks.
In this case, if I'm Vitamin Water, I'd stick to jumping rope. You might expand into other consumable products. You might partner with some other food stuff items, if that makes sense. But jumping to lip balm seems like a strange pair of ropes to cross.
The beauty of jumping rope
If you do something simply but with excellence, people remember it. We like Moleskine notebooks because they feel good in our hands, and they make us feel important when we write in them. We might possibly like a Moleskine pen, if it could convey that kind of feeling. When you're great at something, do that something well. Make it the most amazing something. And you can do a few tricks with that one great jump rope, but maybe stay clear of anything complex.
The beauty of double dutch
There's a time and a place for partnering and wild extension. Sometimes, interesting and useful things happen. Google recently partnered up with Citi to launch Google Wallet, a digitized version of what's in your wallet. It's early, but I think this particularly complex product has a life. I know that I'd like to try it sometime soon (it's currently only available for a very limited set of users). That's when double dutch works rather well. Jumping into the ropes with a partner that has an expertise that you lack, such that the two different brands can convey what they do best to the mix, is the best kind of double dutch opportunity.
There's a place for both. It just becomes a matter of what you choose to do and when you want to do it.