Posted to PR Nigeria: June 16, 2008
By Utibe Uko

“The easiest way to destroy a brand is to put its name on everything”, so says “The Law of Brand Extensions Brand by Al & Laura Ries” (The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding).

Brand extension or brand is a marketing strategy in which a firm marketing a product with a well-developed image uses the same brand name in a different product category. Organisations use this strategy to increase and leverage brand equity. A brand’s “extendibility” depends on how strong consumer’s associations are to the brand’s values and goals.  

For example, Nike clothing, Sony digital cameras and Evian clothing etc. However, although there are obvious benefits of pursuing a brand extension strategy such as; utilising brand equity, business growth and cementing core brand attributes etc., there are also significant downsides of a brand extension strategy in that if a brand extension does not fit with the core brand; the core brand may not add any value to the brand extension product or service resulting in the failure of the brand extension. 

Core brand attributes may well be diluted and negative attributes may be associated with the core brand.

Launching a new product is not only time consuming but also needs a big budget to create awareness and to promote a product’s benefits. Brand extension can reduce financial risk by using the parent brand name to enhance consumers’ perception due to the core brand equity. 

An example of a product extension is Coke vs. Diet Coke in same product category of soft drinks. This tactic is undertaken due to the brand loyalty and brand awareness they enjoy. Consumers are more likely to buy a new product that has a tried and trusted brand name on it.

Brands That Broke the Law

While studies show that Al and Laura Ries are on the spot with their postulation, the Law of Brand Extension is not sacrosanct. Some brands have broken the law. A popular global example is the Virgin brand, which has extended its brand from transportation (aeroplanes, trains) to games stores and video stores such a Virgin Megastores. Ralph Lauren’s Polo brand successfully extended from clothing to home furnishings such as bedding and towels. Both clothing and bedding are made of linen and fulfil a similar consumer function of comfort and hominess.

In Nigeria, a positive example of a successful brand extension is the THISDAY brand. The brand was launched 13 years ago as a daily newspaper and has successfully extended itself into a lifestyle and fashion publication/Events brand (THISDAY Glitterati and Style and THISDAY Fashion Show), an Events/Awards brand (THISDAY Awards), an entertainment/Events brand (THISDAY Music Festival). THISDAY Glitterati and Style, which are published as inserts in the THISDAY the Sunday Newspaper. They are widely regarded as independent publications with strong individual reputations and strong brand recall. Studies show that in cities across Nigeria, these publications are sold individually at price of N100 each to the uninformed as separate publications from THISDAY the Sunday Newspaper instead of N200 for all three publications. Studies in the Lagos metropolis and its suburbs also reveal that a growing number of female newspaper readers who hitherto perceived the THISDAY brand as a hard news publication have adopted THISDAY Style and THISDAY the Sunday Newspaper as a must read on Sunday. 

The high profile calibre of invitees, the high level of brand associations and the scramble for seats at the annual THISDAY Awards, positions the Awards as a popular, accepted and credible upscale event. The exuberant manner in which winners of the THISDAY Awards celebrate their successes at the Awards speaks volumes of its acceptance by professionals as a credible Award. Recipients of the THISDAY Awards go as far as embarking on a mini advertising campaign to celebrate the Awards. Recipients have been known to create corporate and product advertising layouts, which incorporates the THISDAY Award won by the organisation. The THISDAY Musical Festival has steadily entrenched itself as a must-attend show for entertainment aficionados. The THISDAY Fashion is gradually coming of age and with time is likely to surpass the other brand extensions in the THISDAY family. The THISDAY brand is reputed as unpredictable, exciting, adventurous and innovative personae. It is therefore positioned to take advantage of evolving market trends like the Virgin Group.

Products That Did Not

Brand extension, has not worked for Coca-Cola/Fanta in spite of repeated efforts. The many brand extensions of Coca-Cola/Fanta (Diet Coke, Coke Classic, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Blackcurrant, Fanta Apple) have never dislodged the original Coke of Fanta (Orange). At best these brand extensions served to thrill the taste of the consumers briefly before the consumer reverted to what the brand stands for i.e. Coke/Fanta (Orange). BMW 1 Series is not more popular neither has it not outsold its bigger more expensive siblings, the 7 and 5 Series since its launch two years ago because BMW is known for expensive luxurious, powerful large/midsize sedans. Brand for the extension did not work for Harley-Davidson the iconic motorbike brand when it launched a cake decorating kit under its brand. Harley Davidson is a legendary male brand and a “softie” product like a cake decorating kit does not tie in with its brand values and reputation. Neither did a water-filled bra from Evian, produced as a promotional item prove successful. Studies equally show that Cowbell Chocolate, a brand extension of Cowbell Milk has not beaten Cowbell Milk in the market years after its launch.

Brand and Product managers are forever trying to trick out old brands with new extensions. A few work, but most don’t. The key to successful brand extensions is to determine if the brand extension fits or is consistent /congruent with the core brand. However, more often than not, managers utilise their own perceptions of the core brand as the benchmark to determine if a brand extension has the potential to fit with the brand. These perceptions of the brand are frequently in contrast with those of consumers. The most crucial component of consumers’ brand extension fit judgments is the relevance construct. However, all the constructs are important and consumers must perceive all constructs to some degree to perceive a brand extension to fit.

•Uko is a Marketing Communications practitioner based in Lagos.
* Source: Thisday


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