Brand extensions are nothing new. The reality is, we see more bad ones than good. Want proof?
- Cheetos flavored lip balm
- Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul dog food (bad idea and really long name!)
- Starburst (yes the candy) shampoo, body gel and conditioner
There’s a great survey that is done every year by BrandWeek and TippingSprung (NYC branding agency) that highlights the best and the worst. A hat tip to Nancy Friedman’s post that reminded me of this annual brain food.
So what makes a smart brand extension?
Does it add value to the core brand?
Think of this a a math equation. Does A+B=C? If you take the core brand and add a new element, does it create something new that’s of value. One of the survey’s winners was the Red Cross who is now marketing emergency radios. You can see the logic and thought process that created the extension. Not only is the extension itself smart, but it reflects well and adds potency to the core brand.
The quizzical look factor.
You know that expression that a dog gets, when it cocks its head and looks confused? When you say, "hey, look Cheetos flavored lip balm" most people get that same expression. That’s a big clue that the extension is a disconnect. If the two elements are miles apart, it’s going to be tough to get the consumers to buy the connection.
Has anyone asked?
20 years ago, you couldn’t even find a Mickey and Minnie in wedding garb to use as a wedding cake topper. Today, Disney has a wedding pavilion on the grounds of Disney World and the bride can arrive in Cinderella’s coach, if she’d like. How did this come to be? Disney listened to its guests and their requests.
Just this week, in the Wall Street Journal, I read that Disney is now partnering with couture bridal designer Kirstie Kelly to create Disney princess inspired wedding gowns. Check out the Orlando Sentinel story here. (Download kellydisney.pdf )
How credible is it?
Here’s one where I disagree with the survey results. They lauded the Snoop Dog extension into pet products, like dog beds. I’m sorry but just because the man’s made up name includes the word dog does not make him a dog bed or doggie coat expert. Could he be a funny spokesperson for a dog bed manufacturer? You bet. But that’s different than the man opening a line of dog sweaters.
Brand extensions are tricky business. Bottom line — how does it strengthen your core? How does it introduce you to new customers who would find benefit in both the parent and the extension? How does it add value to your current customers?
I completely agree, Drew. Part of my issue, for example, is what immediately comes to mind when you think of a product like Starburst. I think of sticky, yummy candy. But then when I connect that to Starburst bodywash, it makes me automatically think it’ll make me sticky. Not a good thing!
Hannah has a good point: does the new product fit? Are you (read: company) making me jump through hoops to figure this out?
On the other hand, what is not obvious that may still work because it’s unexpected?
So…you are in the dog park. Your dog gets loose. What the heck do you shout to get him to come back??
So do you dress him like a gangsta?
I know, I thought the same thing. Somehow there is nothing clean about a Starburst.
And I know some little girls like that sweet smell to their toiletries, but I can’t imagine many “big” girls do.
I agree completely. That’s what I meant with the quizzical look factor. If people react to the announcement of a new brand extension with that “I’m lost” look — you probably have missed a connection somewhere along the way.
I think unexpected is different from going too far off topic, don’t you?