Choice is a great thing at most of time, but as this article from the Economist (The Tyranny of Choice) and books like Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz point out, too much choice can actually be a bad thing.
It can create problems you never thought you had (like different types of jeans or 50 different types of Bolognese sauce recipes) and can actually lead to a paralysis as you overanalyse all your options.
In the retail world, this is experienced by anyone buying a laptop or TV. When you are presented with 50 TV in the space on a small living room and are expected to make a choice based on quality, it is overwhelming so ultimately decisions are made on price or availability (what can I get right now). So you might not end up with the right product for you. This may account for the success of products such as Apple laptops (you have essential a choice from 3 products – Macbook, Macbook Pro or Macbook Air – for most competitors this is the number of choices within a single chasis).
The other element is that whilst before you bought a product and forgot about it, now you go home and revisit your options and think ‘have I really made the right choice?’.
Choice is great when it liberates but not so good when it slows us down.
So what are marketers to do? Well, this actually presents a choice and a justification for investing in your brand. By doing this, it will act as an immediate filter to the overwhelming decisions people have to make.
Look at the industry you work in and the products you sell? Would anyone really miss one of your product lines? Would they buy a competitor or simply buy another of your products? Is there a true business justification for extending the product line?