Ben Wise on Branding

Watching the world through the lens of the brand

Posts Tagged ‘Brand Extension

Getting the Most from Brand Extensions

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For the past few months I have been working with a client on evaluating a brand extension opportunity. Whenever someone mentions this topic, marketers immediately start talking about ‘fit’ – how well the new category fits with the attributes of the existing brand.

For example, if a company makes pencils, extending the brand into erasers would be a good fit. While it is rarely this simple, the concept of fit in brand extensions is pretty straightforward and can easily be confirmed with some basic consumer research.

There are two deeper strategic questions that need to be included when evaluation a brand extension:

  1. Does the extension category align with the strategic path that the brand is on?
  2. Would a successful product in the extension category add value to the master brand?

Alignment with the Strategic Path

Few brands are able to survive selling the same product forever. Brands usually need to extend themselves into new markets to allow for growth. Each individual extension of the brand is one step along this path. Thus, when evaluating your next step you must understand the longer path that your brand is on.

For example, before the iPod, Apple just sold computers. Extending to portable music players was a good fit because their laptops already provided portable devices that emphasized creativity. But at this time, jumping from laptops to cell phones would have been a step too far. Once the iPod had become successful, the overall Apple brand included small, handheld devices allowing them to further extend in this space – hence the iPhone.

The same could be said for the iPad. Jumping from an iPod to an iPad would have been too much of a stretch, but having the iPhone and iTouch in between made a tablet product a logical next step. Each new Apple product is the logical next step that also paves the way for the step after that.

Enhancing the Master Brand

Brand extensions can be loosely placed into two groups: those that dilute the master brand and those that enhance it. If Heinz launched a 58th flavor of ketchup it would dilute the brand. The Heinz master brand doesn’t improve but it is now spread across more product.

Using the Apple example again, each brand extension enhanced the overall Apple brand and each new product was a step on the path toward creating a master brand about lifestyle entertainment. The launch of the iPhone improved the brand for iPods and laptops too.

What do you think? Is fit enough for brand extensions or should brands seek more value?


Written by benwisebranding

April 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Extending the Google Brand

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I recently wrote about the shift in internet use that is being brought about by mobile devices and mobile applications. In a nutshell, users are not going to be searching the internet for content, but rather relying on a select number of mobile apps that take them directly to what they want. For example, using the Wikipedia app instead of a traditional internet search.

The Google brand stands to suffer from this shift more than any other. Although Google continues to release exciting new products, including ones for mobile devices, nearly all of its revenues still come from search advertising. With a drop in search, Google’s revenue from this service will undoubtedly drop.

Luckily, at least for fans of the Google brand, the company is preparing for this shift. The Android mobile operating system is one example, but this can also be seen in efforts to monetize other Google products. Google recently introduced location-based ads to their Google Maps in Australia, a product that is regularly used on mobile devices.

One of the great strengths of the Google brand is its ability to adapt. Google has such a hold over search that people use brand name as a verb (“I’m going to Google it”), but they have also successfully expanded the scope of their brand to include other areas of the digital world. This isn’t limited to different products and services online. The Nexus One (aka the Google Phone), fibre optic networks, TV advertising – these are all examples of Google’s ability to continually extend their brand.

Google is able to accomplish this because they have built their brand around a benefit, not a product. Google is about helping people access information, whether through search, maps, online documents, and whether on their laptops, mobiles or televisions.

While other brands focus on a specific product, Google’s wider approach to their brand has given them to freedom to enter markets that other companies can’t because they are limited by their brand. You could even take the Google brand a step further and say the benefit it provides is the feeling of empowerment through knowledge, moving their brand from a functional to an emotional benefit.

Maintaining an emotional benefit in the minds of consumers is certainly not easy, but for brands that are able to accomplish this, the benefits can be great. An emotional benefit is much harder for a competitor to match than a functional one. Your product may be the fastest, but another brand could easily usurp that position. If your brand makes me feel safe, that is much harder to replicate. Apple makes you feel cool, Budweiser makes you feel manly, and Google makes you feel smart – great brands all playing on emotional benefits.

What do you think? Will Google’s brand let them adapt to a world without search?

Written by benwisebranding

April 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm

The Branded App Industry Matures

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A recent article from BrandWeek says that branded apps are having more trouble gaining traction among users, looking mostly at iPhone apps. It is becoming increasingly difficult to reach Apple’s list of the top 100 apps, a common benchmark for success in this space. If history is any indication, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to brand marketers.

Many new categories are founded by small, nimble companies that can quickly meet an emerging consumer need. Initially, the early adopters will jump on the new services but as the market grows it will inevitably become more difficult to stand out. The bar quickly gets raised for brands trying to differentiate themselves.

While this may frustrate some brands, it is music to the ears of consumers. The novelty of mobile phone apps is wearing off and users are looking for services that add real value. Brands will be forced to provide consumers with increasingly useful products.

Another example of this can be seen in Facebook groups and fan pages. Only a few years ago it was the norm for Facebook users to join almost any group they were invited too but any interest in a given group page rarely lasted more than a week. Today, users are more discerning in what groups they will join, focusing on the groups that are of significant interest to them and can provide users with actual value. It is exactly the same thing with iPhone apps today (although some Facebook apps are still around that should have disappeared long ago!).

Once a brand has proven the capability of making a useful app, they will be able to leverage their brand and attract users to new apps more easily – a simple brand extension. However, brand extensions are most successful when done from a strong core brand. For now, they should focus on branded apps that create exception value in order to develop the strong core brand they need.

What do you think? Will mobile phone users be more selective of their branded apps?

Written by benwisebranding

February 26, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Can Dove Recreate Their Super Bowl Success?

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A few years ago, Unilver made headlines with their now famous Dove campaign called the ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’. This was a smart campaign executed brilliantly and gave their brand a unique position in the marketplace.

This past Sunday, they ran an ad during the big game aimed at beauty products for men, launching their new ‘Dove Men + Care’. No one would argue that they chose the right time to advertise to men, but was their brand message appropriate for a football game?

Initial reactions, at least would indicate that they made a good choice. All of the metrics over the past few days have shown that the Super Bowl ad was a success.  Unilever has since launched another commercial featuring Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints (the winning team at the Super Bowl, in case you don’t follow football). In case you haven’t seen it, the original commercial is embedded below.

But at its core, the Dove Men + Care is a regular brand extension and I’m not sure if it is a good one. The key for a successful brand extension is moving to a new category/product line/consumer segment where the existing brand attributes and personality will resonate.

The Dove brand position created by the Campaign for Real Beauty is strongly rooted in women. This gives Dove a severe handicap when trying to reach out to a male audience, so I wouldn’t expect to hear anyone studying Dove’s latest campaign as an example of great brand strategy. Unilever can make the ads as macho as they want, but don’t expect to see men asking for Dove products.

What do you think? Will Dove Men + Care be a success?

Written by benwisebranding

February 9, 2010 at 6:26 pm