Written by Canon Wing

I teach entrepreneurs and organizations the proven action steps to stand out within their market, improve the perceived value of their business, and better connect with their audience through naming, branding, storytelling, and communication platforms.

January 14, 2022

Brand Extension Is Good But Does It Make Sense For Your Brand?

Consider this… You’ve had some success with your first product. Now you have a new product idea. Here’s something to think about. How can I make sure that my new product doesn’t dilute my existing brand? I say, why learn the hardest way when you can learn the smartest way, from the people who went before you…

Brand extensions make sense – you already have people who like and trust your brand, so another good product from the brand is always going to succeed, right? Well yes, because studies have shown us that brand extensions are five times more likely to succeed than new launches. However, a brand extension can and does frequently go very, very wrong. A successful brand always has to be wary of spreading their brand too thin. Let me explain with a few examples…

When brand extensions did not work.

At some point, Colgate launched a line of frozen dinners. Perhaps they thought it would work because people associate toothpaste with brushing after a meal, and if they had a meal from the same brand as a popular toothpaste brand… they would brush? Whatever the rationale behind the new product, it didn’t work with people. Similarly, McDonald’s briefly launched pizzas and that didn’t work either, simply because it was seen as too off-brand for them. Evian launched water-filled bras and people simply weren’t having it!

Normally we think of Richard Branson and Virgin as doing everything right with brand extensions, but even they got it wrong one time. Virgin has an airline, telecommunication services, electronics, jewelry and more. But then they went and launched Virgin Brides and set up a couple of stores in London. That didn’t work and the stores had to shut shop. 

The most bizarre brand extension prize would go to Harley Davidson. The company synonymous with freedom and the rebel lifestyle launched a cake decorating kit. That absolutely did not work because it was just so incongruous to everything that the brand represented.

Brand extensions that worked.

When done right, brand extensions really work. They help increase the brand profile, grow profits, and help your business develop. I have helped a lot of my clients do this repeatedly. To understand how a successful brand extension can work, think about Uber. The convenience, speed, and reliability of the Uber cab app was already hugely successful. Then they launched UberEats using the same aggregator business model and this brand extension worked well. It seemed like a natural progression and it worked for the customers as well as the brand.

Also a successful brand extension – more of a rebrand, really, is Weight Watchers. They segued naturally from weight loss to health, by launching fitness coaching, healthy meals, individualized coaching, and support. These are examples of a natural progression of a business’s core products; brand extensions that dovetail with already popular, trusted, and successful products.

Sometimes a brand extension can even work when the new product seems off brand, such as with Michelin, a tire brand created a restaurant rating system. What do restaurants have to do with tires, one would ask. It’s something to do with eating out when on a road trip! This did work really well and today, people are buying Michelin tires and also taking their restaurant rating system very, very seriously! So how can you make sure that you’re not spreading your brand too thin? How can you create successful, workable brand extensions that don’t make the same branding blunders as those big names did? Listen to my podcast or watch my video where I offer you pointers for creating successful brand extensions. Why learn the hardest way when you can learn the smartest way, from the people who went before you!