In this article, you'll learn...
- Examples of successful and unsuccessful brand extensions
- Four lessons on extending your brand
Clothing and food retailer Marks & Spencer (UK) recently announced plans for brand extension M&S Bank, with branches to be located in its stores. Wholly owned by HSBC, the bank's brand is, nonetheless, fronted by M&S. Some believe the brand extension could be a canny move by the retailer because 15% of its customers already use the M&S credit card.
In contrast, Tesco, a leading supermarket business with several successful brand extensions, such as broadband and telephony, just scrapped its used car sales business, Tesco Cars, in the UK. Opened only a year ago, the business cited a lack of stock availability as the reason for its demise. Was that because consumers couldn't wrap their heads around buying groceries and selling cars via the same retailer, albeit not under the same roof?
Brand extensions can be a great way for a core brand to develop its overall brand equity and reach new customers. We can learn valuable lessons from those who have done it right, and those who haven't.
If you are considering embarking on a brand extension, answer these questions first.
1. Does your brand extension fit in with the strategic objectives of your company?
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, has been highly strategic about how he has grown the Virgin brand. Started as a record company, Virgin now includes mobile telephony, gyms, an airline, and even space travel. The brand is strong across disparate business categories because Branson is inherently part of the brand and imbues each Virgin business with similar values. Consumers recognize what the Virgin brand stands for, and buy into it.
In 2001, Apple made a highly strategic, but also highly risky, move from making computer products to making portable digital music devices and an online music service. More than 10 years later, the phenomenal success of Apple's brand extensions has proven that business decision right.
On the other hand, Heinz made a mistake when it decided to branch into cleaning products, releasing its All Natural Cleaning Vinegar, which was based on its edible version. Consumers didn't want to see the Heinz brand beside their detergent. The brand didn't know its limitations and expanded beyond what consumers would accept, possibly even damaging the parent brand by association.
Jens Lundgaard is founder and chief executive officer of Brandworkz, a UK-based provider of brand management software and project implementation consultancy.