The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Category: Brand Extension
Not too long ago here on Branding Strategy Insider, one of my co-authors, Nigel Hollis shared three basic ways a brand can change the brand game to its advantage:
1. Expand the category
2. Disrupt the category
3. Exceed the category
I would argue there is a fourth strategy to go along with expanding, disrupting and exceeding the category. That would be to “extend” the category.
Take Colgate for example. Not only have they been successful in disrupting the category by adding Colgate® Total® to their line of toothpaste, but they have been successful in “extending” the category with products such as Colgate® Peroxyl®, a rinse for minor mouth irritations and Colgate® Orabase®, a pain relieving paste. By extending the brand experience, Colgate also extends the consumer experience while increasing their overall brand awareness through additional shelf space in the retail aisle.
There are several ways for a company to extend a brand. A company can choose to manufacture or source (often from less expensive manufacturers overseas) the new category of product. These two methods require existing sales and marketing teams to drive demand and customer commitment. However, if the company is not familiar with the extended category, they will have to invest in building a minimal level of competence or risk a possible failed brand extension.Read More
We tend to judge the likelihood of whether a brand extension will work on the compatibility that consumers will feel between the brand they know and the extension they are being asked to accept. As Brad VanAuken has observed, “Any brand extension into a new product category must reinforce one of those primary associations without creating new negative, conflicting or confusing associations for the brand. If this rule is followed, the brand extension will actually reinforce what the brand stands for.” In fact, providing that association is strong, Nigel Hollis says, “the fit between the brand and the category does not need to be based on a direct application of the brand’s functional credentials”.
The Need For Structure
Now, in a new study, Wharton marketing professor Keisha Cutright and co-authors James R. Bettman and Gavan J. Fitzimons of Duke University, contend that, alongside the quality of the product, the way it is marketed and the fit with the current identity, consumer psychology also has a role to play in whether a brand extension flies or flops. Specifically, the team identifies people’s feelings of control.
If people are in a situation or a position where they feel less in control than normal, they may be less inclined to stray from the tried and true. According to Professor Cutright, when people experience a lack of control in some aspect of their life, they yearn for greater structure. For this reason, they may see a brand extension as a step too far.
Control Is Subjective
Communication, the marketers found, was critical to consumers retaining that precious sense of being in control. Cutright and her colleagues also identified that certain demographics, such as older consumers and people on low incomes, feel less in control and, one would assume, are therefore less likely to ‘experiment’ with an extended brand offering. That same sense of lack of control applies to people who have experienced uncertainty, and a corresponding lack of structure, through a natural disaster for example, and even for employees who, faced with uncertainty over their jobs, may hesitate to push the boundaries by suggesting brand extension opportunities.Read More
If you have ever named a boat, a pet or a child, you know how difficult it can be to choose the right name. Despite the importance of the decision, the process seems hit-and-miss and there seem to be few guidelines for getting it right. After agonizing over lists of alternatives, you reject all but one, with no sense of certainty. Later the name seems inevitable – how could you have considered any other name?
The Challenge of Naming
The naming challenge is compounded in a business environment, where anointing a company with a name is likely to be just the first of many labeling decisions. Products, business units, specific services, marketing programs, features, line extensions, apps, web sites and more all need monikers. Each decision has implications for future decisions, so it’s important to have a plan or ‘rules’ to guide your choices and avoid confusing customers.
Although critically important to brand health and company value, it can be difficult to create the rules for naming brand entities, and for specifying the relationships among them. Here is a partial list of the kinds of challenges faced:
- When is it desirable to extend an existing brand and when is a new brand required?
- How should a new brand be linked to the parent? Should the relationship be explicit or kept in the shadows?
- Which is better, a descriptive name or a fanciful name?
- When should a name be retired?
- When should a feature be branded?
- Should different brands from the same company have different web sites?
Brand extension is the way to get the best financial return out of a strong brand. By extending a known and much loved brand into new countries and categories, the brand owner reduces risk and maximizes the return on their investment. But extension is not without risks of its own. These days I can’t help wondering if many brands are extended too far, too fast.
Extension into new product categories poses an interesting challenge for a strong brand. There needs to be a good fit between what the brand stands for and what people look for from the new product category. But the fit between the brand and the category does not need to be based on a direct application of the brand’s functional credentials. The fit can be more conceptual. Sometimes this makes for giant leaps into categories not remotely connected to the brand’s origins.
A recent example that comes to mind is the Dirty Jobs heavy duty cleaning products spawned by the “Dirty Jobs” show on the Discovery Channel cable network. In each program, the show’s host, Mike Rowe, explores a dirty job, and attempts to complete the same task as the people whose job it really is. The fit between the well-known TV show and a line of cleaning products makes good sense. After all, Mike doesn’t just get dirty he has to clean up somehow.
A similar “leap of faith” extension would be Wolverine World Wide’s Cat Footwear, the global footwear licensee of Caterpillar® Inc. There is no real functional connection between giant, yellow, earthmoving equipment and footwear, but the connection is there. From durability to traction the benefits of machines and boots have a lot in common. The conceptual linkage has allowed a small collection of work boots to grow into a wide range of casual footwear selling in more than 150 countries worldwide.Read More
We regularly answer marketing questions of all types here on Branding Strategy Insider. Today, Shashwat, a senior marketer in Chennai, India asks this question on brand extensions…
“I am working for a soap manufacturer based in India. As you may know, the market here is dominated by HUL (Hindustan Unilever Limited) and its many brands. Our company is looking to enter new personal care categories (shampoo etc.) with the same brand name.
My question relates specifically to brand extensions, do you think that an extension like this, even if it is into a related category will weaken the brand? I can think only of Dove as a brand here in India which has successfully introduced other personal care products.”
Thanks for your question Shashwat. With brand extensions, one must first understand what brand associations are most closely tied to the brand in question. Any brand extension into a new product category must reinforce one of those primary associations without creating new negative, conflicting or confusing associations for the brand. If this rule is followed, the brand extension will actually reinforce what the brand stands for. If this rule is not followed, the brand extension could be confusing or negative for the brand as seen many times with brand extensions like these: Frito-Lay Lemonade, BIC Perfume and Pantyhose, LifeSavers Soda, Colgate Kitchen Entrees, Cosmopolitan (Magazine) Yogurt, Ben-Gay Aspirin, Cheetos-flavored Lip Balm, and Lamborghini Notebook Computers to name a few. In your pursuit of a successful brand extension — remember — associations for the brand and for its entrance into the new product category should be tested via marketing research before the extension is pursued.
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