Potato Corner®: Cornering its Place in the World with Focus and Simplicity

Similar to our blogs on BTS and Kongō Gumi, in this blog, we further underscore an important characteristic in developing a compelling brand positioning.

“Focus and simplicity…once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs

I can’t say it enough – a singular narrow focus makes for a brand a potent and distinct competitive advantage.

And yet, again and again, many a brand unknowingly falls into this trap of not having a focal point, eventually ending up as a brand with an unclear positioning, thereby undermining its ability to occupy a unique space in the mind of the prospect.

Just like VMV Hypoallergenics®, which we featured in another blog, this Philippine-based brand featured in this blog is among the few home-grown consumer brands which have managed to establish itself in multiple international markets.

I am referring to Potato Corner®, founded in 1992 by business partners Jose “Joemag” Magsaysay, upon the invitation of his brother-in-law Ricky Montelibano, and two other partners Danny Bermejo, and Jorge Weineke. SM Megamall, one of the largest malls in Metro Manila, was the site of the very fist store of the brand.

And the key to this brand’s success can clearly be attributed to this common characteristic of a brilliant brand, that is, having a disciplined and sharp focus.

In the case of Potato Corner, the brand’s bedrock is quite simply, ‘Flavored French Fries’. It was an offshoot of the flavored popcorn company owned by Ricky Montelibano at that time.

“When Potato Corner first opened in SM (in 1992), it was more of a novelty because we were the first food cart to fry inside the mall. Nobody had ever seen flavored French fries until we came so everybody was our market.”

Joemag Magsaysay, Co-Founder and CEO of Potato Corner

And yet, with this simple focal point, the brand has managed to grow into an international brand with over 1,300 stores, over 200 of which are in 13 international markets including USA, Canada, Indonesia, Panama, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The Philippines remains its home base and main market with over 1,000 stores, however the growth outside of the Philippines is outpacing the rate in the homeland.

Potato Corner in Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport, the only Filipino brand featured there.

As stated in their Potato Corner USA Website: “Our concept is simple. Take the world’s most eaten food, add our signature spice blends and the result is a product that after one bite will change the way you think about French Fries forever.”

Potato Corner in Seattle, Washington.

Time and again, we have seen the power of a singular narrow focus in helping establish leadership for a brand in its chosen market segment.

Go Narrow and Go Deep

In addition to this, a related characteristic that I’ve seen in brilliant brands is that they go deep in their chosen narrow open hole.

What do I mean by having a brand ‘go deep‘?

This simply means that a brand sinks its roots deep into everything that would enable it to become the best-in-class, most innovative, most cutting-edge, most cost-efficient competitor in its chosen market segment.

This means that they establish leadership in their position by tenaciously going deeper into many initiatives that add value to its brand architecture thereby further strengthening each element that supports its narrow focus.

Volvo Print Ad featuring another one of this brand’s firsts on ‘safety’.

For example, in our previous blog that mentioned Volvo, aside from the 1957 launch of the 3-point safety belt, it pursued other safety innovations like its 1991 introduction of the Side Impact Protection System (SIPS), its 1998 launch of the Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), the 2010 introduction of the Pedestrian Detection With Full Auto Break, and many more, in order to establish leadership in their chosen narrow focus of ‘safety‘.

Starbucks is known to have secured a global exclusive sourcing agreement with Empresas de Nariños, a Columbian coffee export company, which enables Starbucks to have special access to this source of premium quality coffee beans which supports its mission of providing quality coffee ‘one person, one cup at a time‘.

In the case of Potato Corner, a recent initiative they have launched in late November 2018 was the concept of a Potato Corner Lab. The first store opened in Ayala Centre’s Glorietta 4 in Makati City.

The first Potato Corner LAB launched in 2017 in Glorietta Mall in Makati City, Philippines.

The idea behind the brand’s new concept store is to allow customers to ‘experiment’ with a whole range of new flavors aside from the seven all-time best-sellers which include cheese, barbecue, sour cream, chili barbecue, wasabi, sweet corn, and ranch ‘o cheddar.

In the ‘lab’, customers can choose from another eighteen more flavors, bringing the total options to twenty-five!

New flavors include exotic and flavorful choices like:

  • Curry
  • Truffle
  • Spicy Cheese
  • Kimchi
  • Blue Cheese
  • Ketchup and Mayo
  • Cookies and Cream
  • Chocolate
  • Seafood
  • White Cheddar
  • Chili Lime
  • Paprika
  • Cinnamon
  • Sweet and Sour
  • Butter and Garlic
  • Maple Bacon
  • Honey Butter
  • Cotton Candy

The move has further deepened the brand’s narrow position on being the ‘World’s Best Flavored Fries.’

“I really believe in ‘one thing at a time.’ Potato Corner grew the way it did because we focused. We had a lot of opportunities to explore because of the success of the business, but we realized it was successful precisely because we were so focused.”

Joemag Magsaysay, Potato Corner co-founder and CEO

Aside from its commercial success, Potato Corner has garnered a number of recognition through the years. The brand bagged the Best Franchisee of the Year for three consecutive years from the Philippine Franchise Association (PFA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Awarded by the same organizations, Potato Corner also received the Franchisee Excellence Hall of Fame Award in 2003 and the Global Filipino Franchise Award in 2017.

This brilliant billion-peso brand once again teaches us that the key to success of a brand is having a singular narrow focus, as well as tenaciously going deep into all the elements of its brand architecture in order to establish leadership and achieve enduring success.


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4 thoughts on “Potato Corner®: Cornering its Place in the World with Focus and Simplicity

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