It became clear in our first year at ThirdLove that one product in particular had hit on a real customer need--the 24/7 T-shirt bra.

Over the past six years, we've steadily expanded the number of styles we offer, but the T-shirt bra is still our bread and butter. In recognition of our roots, we recently decided to change our website for new visitors and use landing pages that look more like what we used a few years back.

We realized that even though we offer more products now, focusing the site around our "hero product" makes for a better new customer experience and clarifies our message to prospective customers.

But we're hardly alone in deciding to maintain a focus on one product.

In fact, the core of an iconic brand is a hero product--a best-selling item that has a simple, enduring appeal for customers.

Using a hero product works so well because there's something inherently appealing about simplicity. Being able to quickly and clearly articulate the benefits of a product to customers is a crucial part of building a strong brand. And the fewer products you have, the easier it is to explain to the customer why your company is so great.

Here's why having a hero product is the key to building and maintaining an iconic brand:

One product means one message.

When customers hear one message--and only have one option--the paralysis of choice diminishes. If they choose to buy your product, they know exactly what they're getting and why they're buying it.

Instead of clicking indecisively through hundreds of options, they're limited to one (exceptional) product.

Take a brand like Allbirds, for example. It started with one style of shoe in a handful of different colors, but the product had a dramatic message attached--it was "the World's Most Comfortable Shoe." If you went to Allbirds' website, you were buying the wool runner, and you knew why you were buying it.

A simple message is easy to explain to customers. It's also easy for customers to tell other people. There's nothing ambiguous about someone telling you they're wearing the world's most comfortable shoe or the best T-shirt bra. Those are quick, clear messages that customers can both understand and communicate effectively.

A hero product focuses your brand on a clear, effective, and powerful message that you can use indefinitely.

Having one product helps align all your marketing efforts.

Using a hero product allows you to focus all of your attention on how your message is being received and how customers are responding to it.

Birdies is an interesting example of this, because the company originally began selling indoor slippers. But as Birdies grew, it realized people weren't just wearing its slippers indoors--they were wearing them outside just as often. The company didn't want to continue with a misaligned marketing strategy. And because Birdies had just one product, it was much easier to bring its marketing into alignment with reality.

By listening to its customers, the company pivoted from being an indoor slippers brand to the purveyor of "the most versatile slipper in the world." Birdies still has a strong, focused message, but one that evolved from its previous offering.

End to end, using a hero product results in a marketing strategy that's clear, cohesive, and adaptable when necessary.

As you grow, and your product line expands, you can still attract people with your core product.

Your goal should be to create a product that defines you and your brand. And, hopefully, continues to define you for a lifetime.

That doesn't mean you can't expand and begin selling new products. Every company that finds success with a hero product eventually expands its lines or moves into related categories. But if you look at a company like Levi's, for instance, you can see how a hero product continues to attract people year after year. The company has a vast lineup of jeans at this point, but its 501s are still the iconic line that pops into your mind.

Your hero product gives you something to focus on and attempt to perfect before you expand. It allows you to drive home a message to customers about who you are and what you stand for. As you grow, it serves as the foundation of your brand and, with a little luck, helps it become an icon.

Published on: Jun 19, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.