I don’t drink chocolate milk too often anymore, but those rare times that I do I reach for the Fox’s U-bet. Although the maker of U-bet, Brooklyn-based H. Fox & Co., was acquired in 2016 by Westminster Foods LLC, for more than a century it was known primarily for one thing—chocolate-flavored syrup that was used in egg creams and chocolate milk (and also poured over ice cream).
I don’t have data handy that shows the rise or fall in the consumption of egg creams and chocolate milk in the U.S., but let’s say for the sake of argument that consumption has been going down for the last 25 years and that H. Fox & Co. is still a privately held concern. Then, after several years of internal hand-wringing, H. Fox & Co. releases an announcement saying that in certain test markets Fox’s U-bet will be sold as glow-in-the-dark yo-yos instead of as chocolate-flavored syrup.
That’s what Twitter has done with its announcement yesterday in a blog post that it was doubling its character limit from 140 to 280 characters for “a small group” as part of a market test. As media reports pointed out, this test is a result of Twitter’s recent lack of success in attracting new users, which has spooked investors. The problem for Twitter is that its product is one thing and one thing only—a social networking service with a severe character limit. Double that limit and it’s now a glow-in-the-dark yo-yo.
Unlike Amazon, which began as an online bookstore and moved beyond that singular identity to become an online store for anything you could possibly want to buy—as well as a search engine and entertainment content producer—Twitter has stuck to its initial identity. Being just one thing is dangerous in a marketplace that keeps getting reshaped by advances in technology and changes in consumer habits.
That danger only doubles when antsy investors make you question the very nature of that one thing you produce.
—Steve Goldstein, editorial director, PR News @SGoldsteinAI