How far can you stretch a brand before it snaps?

Harley Davidson’s cake decorating kit… a good move?

I have noticed a recent trend for “designer” brands to extend their brand way out of their product category. I know what you’re thinking, that’s not new – Virgin stretched its brand as far as it could back in the 80’s but that was Virgin, a large established, truly innovative company. But, I’m talking about established brands, not known for going out of their comfort zones.

According to Rohini Ahluwalia, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, brand extensions form 80 per cent of new product development annually. Ahluwalia says “Stretching a brand makes it important to target an audience that will be able to process and understand the relationship of the brand to the new product,” .

I am wondering though, if customers are or will understand(ing) these new relationships… let’s take some examples:

Patrick Cox’s new cupcake café.

Playstation’s license application for food (eating whilst playing could make sense?)

Harley-Davidson’s cake decorating kits?

Evian’s water-filled bra

And now, here’s some examples that make complete sense with the original brand values:

Red Cross first-aid kit seem increasingly logical and natural

Red Cross First Aid Kit – a natural brand extension.

Iams pet food moves into Pet Insurance market.

Iams pet food becomes…
Iams Pet insurance.

According to there are 8 ways to extend a brand:

1. Similar product in a different form from the original parent product. This is where a company changes the form of the product from the original parent product.

2. Distinctive flavor/ingredient/component in the new item. When a brand “owns” a flavor, ingredient or component, there may be other categories where consumers want that property.

3. Benefit/attribute/feature owned. Many brands “own” a benefit, attribute or feature that can be extended.

4. Expertise. Over time, certain brands may gain a reputation for having an expertise in a given area. Leverage can be achieved when extending into areas where this special expertise is deemed important.

5. Companion products. Some brand extensions are a “natural” companion to the products the company already makes.

6. Vertical extensions. Some brand extensions are vertical extensions of what they currently offer. A brand can use their “ingredient/component” heritage to launch products in a more (or sometimes less) finished form.

7. Same customer base. Many brand extensions represent a marketer’s effort to sell something else to its customer base.

8. Designer image/status. Certain brands convey status and hence create an image for the user.

I get the feeling that the 8th is becoming the front leader, aka Patrick Cox. That’s to say, I have a designer brand with a certain image and status and I can take that to new consumers, perhaps those that can’t afford a pair of my shoes, but can say that they have eaten a Patrick Cox Cupcake!

But that isn’t all. Patrick Cox has also opened a pop-up night-club in Monaco.

“I seem to be some kind of vice merchant,” laughs Patrick Cox. “I’m selling people shoes, cake and nightclubs!”

But his cakes just aren’t any old cakes… they have names like “Titty Cake” and “Beef Cake” … Patrick Cox is having fun with his new brand extensions and it seems to be working.

Cox, Cookies, Cake. A new “vice” for Patrick Cox



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