Is it time already for Apple’s Festival of Likes? You know, that annual event where people find it necessary to sleep on the floor of a mall in order to pay someone hundreds of dollars for a phone. Personally, I’m happy to stay in my own bed and be one of the last to get an iPhone, but I admire any brand that can keep its tribe coming back for more nights on the terrazzo.

What happens, though, when the lining up stops? What do you do when nobody cares about your pretty new phone or your concert tickets or your content? You look next door, that’s what. Smart marketers go to adjacent bits of the market to find new customers when share begins to slip or competition gets a little nasty. Brilliant marketers don’t wait that long and start working on their adjacency planning while the sun still shines.

Adjacent markets can be geographic, demographic, related products or ancillary services.

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Good examples in B2B would be Xerox and Ricoh spinning up IT support services to offset declining printer and copier sales. Dell, years ago, began moving into the server space in the face of stiffer competition for personal computers.

Virgin is exceptionally good at finding adjacent markets, except when they aren’t, and the Canadians out there will recall the miserable entry of Target to a geographic adjacency.

Many airlines dabble in budget services (remember Ted?) or charters or car rental companies, while Walmart gave the buying club model a go with its hideous Sam’s Club experiment.

There are plenty of risks to be found in going after an adjacent market: you can dilute your brand a la Pierre Cardin; you can wander too far away from stuff you’re good at, like Samsonsite’s strange line of clothing and you can bugger up the logistics, which is mostly what happened to Target in Canada. You can also step too far away from where you started (think Maria Sharapova’s nasty gummy candy and almost any celebrity perfume) and you can really piss off your core market.

You remember your core market, don’t you? They’re the ones who bought your product or took your service when you were just starting out. They forgave you your early, naïve stumbles; they referred you to their friends and family, they might even have spent the night on a sidewalk to get your new thingy. But now you’re two-stepping with someone else — someone who wants a different, exciting new thing from you. Sure, you still like your old customers, but now you’ve got new people and that’s interesting and growthy.

Here’s the thing: while you’re rolling around in that new customer smell, your old customers are feeling a little like yesterday’s pizza. Which reminds me of a great example of a brand looking for love in all the wrong places. The Food Network is one of my favourite things. The only thing I like more than telling people they suck at marketing is telling people they suck at cooking, and the Food Network has supplied my snobby foody self with countless hours of watching people cook. They cleverly found an adjacent distribution channel in their print and online magazine, but then they went looking for a different kind of viewer.

I happen to like a good old-fashioned cooking show where someone who knows what they are doing does it in front of a camera and is reasonably entertaining while they do it. I can put up with celebrity chef challenges and even those shows where unknown chefs have to turn jelly beans, mushroom soup and tree bark into an appetizer.

What isn’t interesting to me is some dude with bad hair nomming food in restaurant kitchens, competitions involving eating soup with a toothbrush, evil genius pastry chefs or people racing shopping carts through grocery stores. I don’t like watching celebrity chefs telling incompetent restaurateurs that they need new paint and I could care less how Licorice Allsorts are made (indeed, I’m terrified to think about it) These things have nothing to do with food and everything to do with making a network about food attractive to people who don’t care about food.

The History Channel has done the same, strange thing with its new interests in cars and people who live in swamps. HGTV used to be about home repair, gardening and faux finishes. Now it’s about conflicted people and their real estate agents.

The issue here is not a lack of people who want to watch that stuff; clearly someone is bored enough to think it’s worth their time. The issue is that it alienates core customers like me, which means that when food truck demo derbies become old news, the adjacent market moves on and the alienated core has left the dance with someone else.