Every marketeer has heard of the term brand extension. Extending into a new product line or – category could potentially be very beneficial for the product sales (Aaker, 1990). Some companies have gotten really good at it and make it look so very easy.Just slap your brand name on a new product line or category and make it work. For example, think about the different line-extensions of Coca Cola: Coca-Cola®, Vanilla Coke, Coke with Lime, Raspberry Coke, Cherry Coke, Orange Coke, Cherry Vanilla Coke and all the diet and zero versions.

And what about the successful product category extensions of Richard Brandson’s Virgin, which has successfully produced planes, music and wines. Not products that you would automatically associate with just one brand.

However it is not as easy as it seems. The brand extension should always fit the existing brand and the associations that the consumers have with it. Even Richard Brandson has made some mistakes with Virgin. Virgin Cola, for example, did not work out, nor did the Virgin Home water purifiyer.  Underneath you see the ad for Virgin Cola. Ask yourself during the commercial, what is wrong with this? Why doesn’t it work?

Here are some other cases in which brands got extended into a product- or linecategory that turned out to be disasters:

Somehow Cosmopolitan, the magazine about lifestyle and fashion, made the connection between their readers and the need for a Cosmopolitan branded dairy product. Although the packaging was ‘sophisticated’, the yoghurts were already off the shelfs in after a year. The productcategorie of yoghurt: a healthy, sour, sticky, white, liquid type of food, did not meet the associations that one would normally have with the glamorous Cosmopolitan.

Colgate, the well-know toothpaste brand, saw a great opportunity for a product that would be the direct cause for the use of their core output. Why should you clean your teeth? Because you just had a delicious Colgate meal, ofcours! Why didn’t this work? Well,  the Colgate logo on the meal immediately reminds you of the minty flavour of toothpaste, and we all now how food tastes after you have just brushed your teeth… The brand extension was not a great succes.

McDonalds tried to extend their offering with this famous Italian fast food. However, the customers did not like it at all. The main issue was the waiting time for the pizza was longer than the average waiting time for a hamburger, which was not in line with the fast service guarantee that McDonalds still offers today. When people go to Domino’s or Pizza Hut, they expect to wait for their pizza. At McDonalds, customers expect to be served fast. The McPizza was erased from the menu, and is only still available in 2 McDonalds locations in America.

Long story short. When extending your brand, listen to your consumers and do the research. What do they associate with your brand and which new products could fit these associations? Or maybe it is just a matter of persistence, to get these new associations in our heads. Could we have Nivea watches or Snicker computers in the future? If you have deep pockets and a long breath, I think you can make it work.

Written by: Marjolein Tromp

Sources and image credits:

Aaker, D. (1990). Brand extensions: The good, the bad, and the ugly. MIT Sloan Management Review, 31(4), 47-56

Cosmopolitan Yoghurt: Source,  Freaky Fresh Marketing: 

Colgate Food: Source, Huffington Post

McPizza: Source, Stange Kids Club