Managing brand images and building brand portfolios are difficult challenges even for the most seasoned executives. This is particularly true in hard economic times when consumers are prone to forego known names to buy less expensive store brand substitutes. The recent example of Pampers diapers illustrates many of the challenges and some of the opportunities available to marketers to increase the value of their brand franchise.

The Case of Pampers

When you think Pampers you think of what-diapers of course-expensive diapers at that. These rather narrow associations were not helping the Pampers brand.

Although the brand commands a 24% share in the diaper category, it was and is now under siege from lower priced counterparts, particularly in the wake of new and improved store brands that have greatly upped quality. The economic recession doesn't help-particularly since Pampers' price is 50% higher than that of store brands. Nor did Pampers' advertising which, since 1961 had changed relatively little and tended to talk down to mothers. Pampers (and other diapers) are also in some sense responsible for their own slowed growth as improvements in diapers means fewer diaper changes (see Emily Nelson, Wall Street Journal, December 27, 2001, B1).

How can companies build and enhance their brand franchise-both deepening the meaning of the core brand and insulating the brand from price-based competition? Attention to a few simple concepts provides a start.

Brand Longevity through Line Extensions

Keeping customers around as long as possible is a problem for products like diapers since parents' desires for potty training force even loyal users to give up the product after a few years. Natural aging make the product obsolete among core customers-fueling expensive attempt to garner new customers.

Pampers' line extensions however, are aimed at keeping customers initially happy with the Pampers brand loyal for as long as possible. Different lines are offered for boys and girls and diapers are offered for different stages of kids' development. Diapers for newborns offer extra absorbency, toddler diapers have stretchy sides for crawlers and pull on pants type diapers are offered for toddlers and preschoolers who can't yet make it through the night.

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image of Debbie MacInnis

Debbie MacInnis is the Charles L. and Ramona I. Hilliard Professor of Business Administration and a professor of marketing at USC's Marshall School of Business. She is co-author of a recent book on brand admiration, which blends years of best-practice thinking from academia with the real-world practice of marketing.

LinkedIn: Debbie MacInnis