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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Other famous brand extension failures

Country Time Cider

Country Time Lemonade Drink was launched in 1976 by Kraft foods as a powder mix, and soon became the top-selling lemonade product sold through US grocery and convenience stores. It successfully extended its line with Country Time Pink Lemonade, which was introduced in 1977. However, when the decision was made to extend the well-known Country Time brand to apple cider, the brand experienced its first failure. Although the brand managers may have thought the brand was chiefly associated with ‘good old-fashioned taste’ (a Country Time slogan) – an attribute which could be applied equally well to cider – the reality was that the brand simply meant ‘lemonade’ to most customers.

Ben-Gay Aspirin

Ben-Gay is another well-known US brand. It is an analgesic cream used for the relief of minor arthritic pain, muscle aches and back pain. Again, its first brand extension – Ultra Strength Ben-Gay – was a success, as it was essentially the same product, only intensified. When trying to think of another logical extension, the company came up with Ben-Gay Aspirin. After all, Ben-Gay could use its existing distribution network and the brand could still be associated with pain relief. Well, that is what the company thought. The only trouble was Ben-Gay was so strongly associated with the burning cream that it was unable to make the transition. Nobody liked the idea of swallowing a Ben-Gay product. As a result, the Ben-Gay Aspirin failed.

Capital Radio restaurants

In November 1996, London station Capital Radio acquired the My Kinda Town themed restaurant company. Rather than keep the My Kinda Town name, the company decided to set up a Capital Radio themed restaurant. As with Planet Hollywood and the Fashion Café, these restaurants were never able to generate enough return custom. Although Capital Radio could boast millions of listeners, very few could see a logical connection between the station and food – because, of course, there wasn’t one.

Smith and Wesson mountain bikes

In the United States, gun manufacturer Smith and Wesson is a well-known brand. When it decided to capitalize on this wide recognition by launching a range of Smith and Wesson mountain bikes, the company clearly failed to grasp the golden rule of brand extensions. Namely, that the extension must link with the core brand. There needs to be some kind of correlation between the original product (in this case guns) and the extension. Guns and bikes may both be made out of metal, but other than that it is hard to perceive a connection.

Cosmopolitan yoghurt

Yes, that’s right. Cosmopolitan – the world’s biggest selling women’s magazine – launched its own brand of yoghurt. However, although this extension failed (the yoghurts were off the shelves within 18 months), Cosmopolitan has had success with other crossovers. For instance, Cosmopolitan is now the UK’s second-biggest bed linen brand. The connection in this instance is obvious.

Namely, sex. There are also plans for Cosmopolitan cafés, which may also fit within Cosmopolitan’s ‘sex and the city’ identity. ‘I’m not surprised Cosmo yoghurts failed,’ says Jane Wentworth, a senior consultant with the brand consultancy Wolff Olins. ‘Any brand extension has to be credible for the mother brand. Companies use brand extensions to reach new audiences and to make the most of their promotional spend – but the important thing is not to tarnish the original brand.’

Lynx barbershop

Lever Fabergé, the Unilever division that owns the Lynx brand of male deodorant, opened its first Lynx hairdressing salon in 2000. ‘Time and time again, when you ask young chaps in research about Lynx it is the personality of the brand rather than the fact that it is a deodorant that comes out,’ said Lynx barbershop project leader, justifying the extension. Promoted as ‘bloke heaven’ the salons were a post-modern cross between an old-fashioned barber shop and a video games arcade (arcade games and MTV screens were installed to prevent boredom setting in while customers had their hair cut).

The salons also carried a full range of Lynx products and branded merchandise. After 14 months, the salons were closed.

‘Brand extensions are not simply a sideline for us – we set aggressive targets for all our initiatives,’ a Unilever spokesman told the Guardian newspaper. ‘The barbershops generated a lot of publicity, but failed to meet the targets.’

Colgate Kitchen Entrees

In what must be one of the most bizarre brand extensions ever Colgate decided to use its name on a range of food products called Colgate’s Kitchen Entrees. Needless to say, the range did not take off and never left US soil. The idea must have been that consumers would eat their Colgate meal, then brush their teeth with Colgate toothpaste. The trouble was that for most people the name Colgate does not exactly get their taste buds tingling. Colgate also made a rather less-than-successful move into bath soaps. This not only failed to draw customer attention, but also reduced its sales of toothpaste.

LifeSavers Soda

Invented in 1912, LifeSavers are one of the favourite brands of sweet in the United States. Concentrating on different flavours of ‘hard roll candies’, the firm produces nearly 3 million rolls every day. Their popularity is also evidenced by the fact that more than 88 million miniature rolls of LifeSavers are given out each year to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. However, when the company produced a fizzy drink called LifeSavers Soda, the product failed even though it had fared well in taste tests. According to one brand critic ‘the Lifesavers name gave consumers the impression they would be drinking liquid candy.’

Pond’s toothpaste

Pond’s, the popular brand of face cream, didn’t prove to be quite so popular when it applied its name to toothpaste. In a blind test environment, people were not able to differentiate Pond’s toothpaste from that of Colgate.

However, when the Pond’s name and imagery were attached to the toothpaste, no-one was interested. Although Pond’s had successfully extended its brand before (into soap products, for instance), these extensions had all been linked by a similar fragrance. ‘The main attribute of a toothpaste is taste, this mismatch between taste and fragrance created a dissonance in the minds of consumers,’ says Dr M J Xavier, professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Marketing. ‘To most people Ponds was something to do with fragrance and freshness and used for external application only.’

Frito-Lay Lemonade

Frito-Lay is the leading brand of salty snacks in the United States. And what do people want to accompany a salty snack? A soft, thirst-quenching drink.

So what could be a better idea than Frito-Lay Lemonade? Although it may have been seen like a logical brand extension Frito-Lay Lemonade bombed. After all, Frito-Lay was a brand which made people thirsty, and therefore is the exact opposite of lemonade. From the consumer’s perspective the fruity, sweet drink had little connection to other Frito-lay products.

In the old days, brands knew their place. Harley Davidson stuck to motorcycles, Coca-Cola stuck to soft drinks, and Colgate stuck to cleaning our teeth. Now, of course, everything is all mixed up. If modern life wasn’t already confusing enough, brands are trying to complicate matters further by creating multiple identities. Sometimes this works. For instance, the Caterpillar clothing range has proved a phenomenal success. Usually, however, brands struggle when they move into unrelated categories. Brand schizophrenia not only aggregates and bewilders consumers, it also devalues the core brand.

1 comment:

peterk said...

About gun makers branching out into bicycles, it has been done before with great success. Birmingham Small Arms branched out into bicycles and motorbikes and at one time were the largest British motorcycle manufacturer