There is no single approach to brand extension or stretching, but what are strategies for success? Let’s start with a short story.
In 1881, Rowntree launched Fruit Pastilles, and then in 1893, Fruit Gums. Their success allowed them to launch new chocolate products, including chocolate beans. However, through the early 1900s, Rowntree struggled to make milk chocolate to match the quality of market leader, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Then in 1931, George Harris became marketing manager for chocolate products. So mining his knowledge of marketing and consumer research gained in America, he launched Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp, later renamed KitKat (Figure 1). As a result there are over 200 KitKat brand extensions today.
He also transformed Rowntree’s Chocolate Beans into Smarties. As a result, brand extensions now available include large Smarties, Fruity Smarties, and ice cream Smarties.
While launched as ‘fruit confectionery’ brand extensions, KitKat and Smarties, grew into discrete, and successful new ‘chocolate’ brands. As a result, Harris became Rowntree’s company Chairman in 1941. He is also now recognised as a father of modern marketing (Figure 2).
In summary brand extensions are a source of growth, or reputation, or both. So choose to:
Of course, these goals are not mutually exclusive. What seems apparent however, is that the further a brand extends, the greater the likelihood of dissonance from the core. While this implies greater opportunity, and potential for a ‘new’ brand, it also implies greater risk. (Figure 3). The question then, as George Harris understood, is whether a brand extension or new brand strategy, will inspire greatest success?
So is it better to extend a brand, or launch a new brand? In short, extending a brand allows it to benefit from its existing brand awareness and equity, thus potentially reducing launch promotion costs. Conversely, launching a new brand, required building new equity, thus at higher cost (See Figure 4).
There are two principal brand extension strategies; either brand extension by evolving from the brand core or to realise a vision.
Boots No7, launched in 1935 as a retailer own brand. Originally it was a skin care line, though cosmetics followed and then took off after the war (3). Over the years the brand had many make-overs: both changes in livery (blue, terracotta, brown, grey, black etc). Also many brand extensions, though growth was impeded through a close association with Boots. Thus in 1971, the decision was made to build an independent fashion brand, though exclusive to Boots. Product innovations also added to the ‘skin care’ equity, with (Special Collection) Positive Action Cream (1980) (designed to compete with upscale skin care brands). In 2007, No7 went a step further by launching Protect & Perfect Serum. A BBC Horizon documentary declared it the only product on the market to have proven anti-ageing effects. As a result it caused a storm in Boots’ aisles with stock selling out in just two weeks. Today ‘Protect and Perfect’ is a sub-brand extension in its own right. It sells well beyond Boots’ stores (Figure 5).
Brand extension from the core requires understanding on the nature of the brand equity, its strengths and weaknesses, and then building on those strengths, or eliminating weaknesses.
Olay, a pink beauty lotion, (or Oil of Ulay, Olaz, or Ulan), as it was originally known, launched in South Africa in 1952 (4). Promoted as ‘the secret of younger looking skin’, it eventually became global category leader. While largely a single product brand, it was clearly perceived as ‘for younger looking skin’. In 1985, Procter & Gamble therefore acquired the brand, and invested significantly in R&D, to create a raft of brand extensions to better deliver the said promise. As a result, brand extensions now include Complete, Total Effects, ProX, Regenerist, Regenerist Luminous, Classics, Fresh Effects, Body (North America) and White Radiance (Asia). They also include lots of ingredients to deliver the younger looking promise: including a broad spectrum sunscreen, retinyl propionate (a vitamin A derivative), glycerin, niacinamide (vitamin B3), and amino peptides.
Gucci started out making saddles for wealthy horsemen in Tuscany in 1921 (5). Impressed by some of the luggage he saw guests with at luxury hotels, he then employed fine leather craftsmen, and the latest machinery, to make luggage. He also set up stores to reach elite customers. Clothing then followed in 1964, as did the iconic double GG logo on belt buckles. Through the 1970s, the company established a reputation for classic Italian style and luxury, and prospered. While ups and downs followed, the hiring of the highly creative Tom Ford to design a ready-to-wear collection in 1990 took the company to new heights. Most recently the brand stretched into homeware and decoration (Figure 6) and social sharing via digital media. This has inspired further growth.
Caterpillar Inc. (sometimes shortened to Cat) is the world’s biggest manufacturer of construction equipment. The name results from the merger of two companies in 1925; one of whom Holt, whose tractors hauled guns in World War 1. During World War 2 their trucks also found fame with the US Navy who used them to build military bases. Then through the 1950s, the company made a series of acquisitions, bringing new products to market under the Caterpillar name.
By the late 20th century, Caterpillar was synonymous with reliability, durability and technology, and a distinctive yellow livery. In 1994, therefore, via a carefully controlled licensing programme, Caterpillar extended the brand to a other merchandise. Firstly, and most famously, boots. The footwear sector has since boomed, and it remains the most successful consumer product licensing segment to date. In the late 90s Caterpillar then issued its first watch license, to Catwatches.com (Cat calls them rugged timepieces), and in 2016, to mobile phones. According to Kenny Beaupre, Caterpillar Brand Licensing Manager, “This builds positive brand awareness which helps in many ways. It also connects new and existing audiences to Caterpillar’s products and services. We’re fortunate people like being associated with our brand, and Cat licensed products are a great way to show this connection.“
Walt Disney, a shy yet visionary man, famously created his first sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie in 1928 (4). It featured what was to become the world’s best known mouse. Later in 1935, he went on to create the first full length, animation, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Then in 1955, he opened the world’s first amusement park, Disneyland (in Anaheim, Los Angeles). To fund this he also diversified into TV programmes, including the Mickey Mouse Club, and live action movies. As a result, by the mid 1960s, when Walt Disney died, he’d set high standards, instilled strong beliefs in, and established a clear vision for the company, “to make the world happy”.
This vision has since guided Disney’s “imagineering”.
1. Brands grow through evolution (from a brand promise), or revolution through innovation to realise a brand vision. So build clear brand values. And also answer the question – “what does the brand stand for”? (Figure 8)
2. Great brands, and thus brand extensions, tend to have high awareness (at least in their niche). And also distinctive rational and emotional benefits. So pay particular attention to boosting the latter, as people pay more.
3. Successful brand development springs from clear insight, a strong creative leader, visionaries, a great R&D department, or a strong brand belief system.
4. Don’t think too linearly i.e. just within a market segment, to stretch your brand. Try and think laterally. So understand customers, and their views on your brand. Seek a new insight or thread to connect the brand parts, and inspire a clear direction. Further even if a finding is untrue, it could still inspire growth.
5. You are more likely to reveal extraordinary brand extension ideas, through a culture of innovation. So hire bold and creative thinkers.
6. Don’t cannibalise your own sales unless you are making more money i.e. higher margins.
7. Slapping your brand name on any product risks eroding rather than boosting your brand. So avoid a stretch too far, and only use a new brand when dissonance, and upside potential is great.
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2. Sébastien Jaulent, Katia Luxin, and Yna Sacko, Dissertation on ‘Advantages and Disadvantages of Brand Extension Strategy for Companies’
3. No7 Beauty
7. Capodagli Bill, Jackson Lynn, The Disney Way – Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company (1988)
Storytelling predates writing; the earliest forms were spoken, combined with gestures and expressions. They also include fairy tales, myths, legends and many of religious origin. There is much to learn from stories. Thus with brand storytelling it is possible to transform a brand from a frog to a prince, prolong brand life and even slay a competitor or two in the process.
Saint George (AD 280 to 23 April 303), for example, is immortalised in the myth of Saint George and the Dragon. Initially, a soldier in the Roman army, he became venerated as a Christian martyr. Also adopted as patron saint of many countries, cities and organisations.
The story about George and the Dragon returned from the Crusades in the 11th Century. In what is now a legend, the dragon lives at a water hole and requires a gift of a sheep or maiden to allow the locals to reach the water. When it is a maiden, they draw lots. However, one day a princess is chosen. She begs for her life but to no avail. Then George comes along, slays the dragon and saves the day.
Great stories touch and move us. Particularly when seen in a cinema, or through mini movies – as some television advertising has become. Not only do great stories engage, but they merit retelling and sharing. Only the best stories grab attention, are ‘liked’ and shared. In this rich digital media world (1), we are therefore all writers, photographers, producer/directors and editors.
It is the same for brands. Only the best impress journalists, trade buyers and of course, consumers. Some brands became great through brand storytelling. Some stories are born of reality, many of accident or serendipity and some invention.
Figure 1 shows a typical cinematic story structure. This is useful for brand storytelling. Act 1 involves setting the scene, introducing the characters, conflict and setting. It then concludes with a climax or set-back (turning point 1 (TP1)). Act 2 develops the story, with rising action and tension, and concluding with another climax or set-back (turning point 2 (TP2)). Finally, in the last act, the dénouement, the story reaches a climax, and resolves.
For example, that good always triumphs over evil. That every cloud has a silver lining – i.e. that you can derive some benefit from every bad thing that happens to you. Or that fortune favours the brave – that drive and determination is essential to success. Christopher Booker’s Jungian-influenced analysis of stories and their psychological meaning, espoused seven basic plots (2). Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson subsequently highlighted eighteen: eight guides or gifts and ten warnings (3). Figure 2 shows eight familiar stories mapped to Mark and Pearson’s need-states.
‘Transformations’ deal with significant change in attitude, behaviour or personal growth. ‘Overcoming the Monster’ stories are crime and adventure staples. They feature archetypal heroes (and villains) such as George and the Dragon. Also James Bond vs. Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun). And Harry Potter, growing from boy to man, while battling Voldemort.
The typical story-line is baddie does bad thing (set-up), goodie fights baddie and loses (story development, set-back). Then goodie digs deeper, fights back and wins the day (dénouement). In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, he kills a young maiden and then goes after Harker, the hero’s fiancée. Harker and friends then hunt and eventually kill Dracula. Thus saving Harker’s fiancée (and allowing them to live happily ever after).
Brand archetypes can play different roles in narratives, and inspire brand storytelling. In a typical ‘overcoming the monster’ story-line, archetypal heroes, such as James Bond and Harry Potter are protagonists (leading players). Equally the brand could still be the hero, but not the protagonist. Alternatively a bit player – perhaps the protagonist’s assistant or ‘weapon’.
Consider a utilitarian hero archetype, cleaning brand Mr. Muscle. In a typical 3 act story, we see the housewife battling the dirt, getting tired and frustrated at her inability to clean the house etc. until along comes the hero, to clean away the dirt and save the day. The protagonist is the brand user or housewife, and the adversary, simply dirt.
Nike is a more inspiring, hero(ine) archetype (4). The protagonists in Nike advertisements are usually athletes or ordinary people, and the adversaries are fellow competitors. In a typical 3 act story, the athletes compete against each other. One wearing Nike clothing or using Nike equipment, suffering set-backs yet finally winning, and winning applause.
The Nike advert (below) features a tennis playing protagonist vilified for being a pretty face. However, the antagonist is not just a fellow competitor but public dismissal, or disdain. All questions confidence in the athlete’s skills. Will she, won’t she succumb to the pressure? Watch the advert to see the dénouement. Also feel how the rising tension strengthens the brand story.
Now work through these simple brand storytelling steps to finesse and execute your brand strategy.
Great brands like great stories are based on great truths. Great truths include customer and brand truths. So look inside and outside your business to find them.
Consider characters, the role of the brand, and how your brand could transform customers’ lives. How can you create rising tension, and a dénouement that fits the brand? Also involve disparate people in the creative process and allow time to nurture the ideas. Figure 3 shows a start-point brand storytelling concept.
While great stories and great brands touch people in different ways, they are based on a clear brand strategy and also express a consistent message. So for creative brand storytelling involve diverse experts in early brand development. Also consider how the story unfolds or presents through different media and choose media that enhance the message and enable sharing.
1. According to https://www.internetlivestats.com there are now over 1.1 billion websites including a burgeoning range of social media including Facebook, You Tube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat and many more.
2. Booker, Christopher The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories.
3. Mark, Margaret and Pearson, Carol S. The Hero & the Outlaw. Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes.
4. Named after Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.
Standing out from the crowd is tough! It is common to find products, services and brands making the same claims. In other words, occupying the same brand positioning spaces. For example, almost every business service claims to improve business efficiency. Further, in consumer goods, almost every washing powder washes clean. Most food also tastes good, and nearly every feature film entertains. These are examples of ‘basic’ or ‘generic’ category benefits; they match the most basic or prevalent consumer needs.
This is where the idea of brand personality has a role to play. Brand personality can transform your brand into a super brand. Through how the brand communicates not just via what is said.
Brand personality confers human characteristics on a brand; physical characteristics, beliefs and behaviours – these guide how the brand looks, speaks, what it thinks, believes and also how it behaves.
While there are usually few benefits to express, there are almost limitless ways to express the benefits. For example, with candour, authority or through humour.
A great deal of psychological literature suggests that people have a tendency to perceive those they like as more similar than those they dislike. People also have a tendency to perceive themselves in a positive light and seek congruence (1).
Thus a brand personality helps attract and engage. So consider the criteria involved in selecting a mate. Other than physical attributes it mostly comes down to personality and the consequential benefits of a personality. Beyond the obvious, “And Mrs. Ecclestone, what attracted you to the multi-millionaire Bernie?” other potential benefits include reinforcing self-knowledge, self-consistency and also self-esteem (2).
Brand personality also enriches differences and helps attract and cement relationships. There are three main strategic applications or benefits of a brand personality (Figure 1) (3). To:
Applying archetypes to brands helps further distil and define a brand’s personality. An archetype is a collectively inherited unconscious idea, a pattern of thought, behaviour, image. They are also universally present in myths, legends, literature and art. Archetypes came to popular consciousness through the work of Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Carl Jung – the founder of modern psychology. However, archetypes are neither good nor bad, they simply exist. Further, while the number of archetypes is limitless, there are a few notable, recurring archetypes, “the chief among them being” (according to Jung) “the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother … and her counterpart, the maiden. Also, lastly the anima in men (the feminine side in a man’s psyche) and the animus in women (the masculine side in a woman’s psyche)” (5).
Humans automatically inherit archetypes and enrich them based on our own experiences. Archetypes also reflect basic human needs and motivations. Mark and Pearson (6) summarised these needs along two axes: belonging/enjoyment versus independence/fulfilment and stability/control versus risk/mastery (Figure 2).
Figure 2 shows the twelve main archetypes mapped on two axes, together with examples of well-known brands that fit each archetype. Some are easy to understand while others may trigger subliminal thoughts. For example, Virgin is a familiar Outlaw brand cf. Robin Hood. A challenger to authority, taking from the rich and ‘evil’ (as they have variously portrayed established national airlines, banks and railway companies) and giving to the ‘poor’. Think also Zorro and Rebel without a Cause. This is archetypes is particularly useful to position pioneering brands or those taking on the establishment.
Archetypes also add meaning and convey messages that verbal and written information cannot. Thus they help bring brands alive. They are also powerful in stimulating new ideas to help brands challenge category conventions, stand-out and reconnect with consumers. Thus understanding the archetypal nature and power of a brand is the first step to realising the strategic benefits outlined in Figure 1. Once you determine your archetype and understand how it works, the more easily you can express it, use it and also avoid career-limiting mistakes! Brand marketing activity that correlates most strongly with archetypes tends to be more successful and value enhancing (and vice versa) (6).
The right brand positioning, personality and archetype depends on the market in which you compete, your customer segments and also their needs. In addition, the brand positioning spaces occupied by competitors, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses.
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Batman vs. Superman 2016.
The Scottish electorate voted on the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ on Thursday 18th September 2015. The UK Government stated that if a simple majority of the votes cast were in favour of independence, then “Scotland would become an independent country after a process of negotiations”. If the majority voted against independence, then Scotland would continue within the United Kingdom (1). In addition, further powers would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament as a result of the Scotland Act 2012. This article looks at some of the drivers and barriers from a political branding and also marketing perspective.
Scottish residents over the age of 16 were eligible to vote, and according to the National Records for Scotland, 4.1m people registered to do so (2). Though of nearly half a million EU citizens living in Scotland just 94k registered. 16-17 year olds also voted for the first time. This is as a result of a political bargain or trade which suggests different benefits to the different political sides.
Influencing starts with awareness of an issue or opportunity. Appreciating or rejecting an idea, engaging (and potentially interacting with other influences or influencers) then follows to reinforce or change voting intention and behaviour. Research in political science has traditionally ignored non-rational considerations in theories of mass political behaviour though a growing literature suggests that affective states (i.e. emotions or feelings in contrast to cognition) are both beneficial and biasing (3). Further research (4) also found that anxiety and enthusiasm encourage more evaluation and consideration of political choices. In addition that events such as the outcome of football matches (5) and the weather (6) can stir emotions and affect voting decisions.
The ‘Yes’ camp framed the question as Scotland vs. Westminster and painted Westminster, and the likes of David Cameron, as the enemy. Meanwhile, the ‘Better Together’ team argued that the question is not about choosing between two states but about choosing between one or both. Though through the electorate’s eyes there is a greater spectrum of options from Scotland the brand, to both Scottish and British brands. However, exactly where perceptions lie is key to electoral success.
Establishing the benefits or disbenefits of Scottish independence is difficult as much is unknown. Financial management was centre-stage, with the ‘Yes’ campaign playing up the benefits of the oil reserves. Equally ‘Better Together’ stressed the ability of the UK to offer longer term financial stability. Both sides also espouse the benefits of their causes, and the negatives of the other. For example, while the ‘Yes’ campaign manifesto claims to have a costed and credible plan, ‘Better Together’ disagree.
At the most rational level, some studies suggest that voters vote for what they do not want to lose, as much as what they hope to gain (7). Which is why spreading fear, uncertainty and also doubt is a strategy employed by both sides to ‘diss’ the other.
Our experience is that emotional arguments are more likely to hold sway. These are more deep-rooted than price/value arguments. For example, that Scottish independence gives Scotland greater control. Thus the ’Yes’ campaign challenge is to make this a meaningful benefit and convince the electorate that they can be relied on if granted ‘more’ control.
A distinctive Scottish voice or personality is another feature of independent Scotland. Though the challenge is also to make this compelling. Historical evidence suggests ‘Scottishness’ is reasonably clear (Burns, bagpipes, whisky, golf, scenery etc.) though future ‘Scottishness’ is harder to comprehend. The Saltire, for example, is more ubiquitous in Scotland, than the flag of St. George in England. It is possible that a distinctive Scottish voice could raise Scotland’s profile and status on the world stage. It could also raise self esteem. All are particularly powerful emotional benefits. Thus this perhaps explains why a lot of effort has gone into defining Scotland the brand (8) and promoting Scottish iconography. Though one suspects the electorate are unaware of the underlying strategic nation branding effort.
Nevertheless, all things Scottish instill pride in being Scottish as much as the white rose, Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and Yorkshire Dales instill pride in Yorkshire folk. Pride is a powerful emotional benefit and is rooted in history as well as personal experiences.
Or the best of both. While the concept is ‘Britishness’ is harder to define, the Prime Minister recently attempted to do so (9), and the London 2012 opening ceremony illustrates some elements.
Post election update; as the ‘nayes’ won, we’re delighted to retain our Scottish cousins …. though there are maneoverings for #indyref2 – return of the big beasts.
Over the years, we’ve devised brand strategies for companies, products, services, media and people. Many have a provenance. And now cities, regions and countries are in on the act. The reason is usually to increase market competitiveness, recognition and demand. This often goes hand in hand with stakeholders requiring a more advanced approach to manage their operations. This thought process inspired early Egyptians around 2000 BC to brand their cattle and inspired retailers to promote their names on their goods at the end of the 19th Century. With the growth of ’emerging’ markets, such as, China, India, Eastern European, South American and African countries, there are new and genuine threats to both developed and other emerging nations. Thus, it’s no wonder that so many are now embracing the concept of ‘nation branding’.
This is the first question nations must ask. According to Hy Mariampolski, “the goal of nation branding is to make positive elements more manifest and place the negative elements into latency” (1). Potential benefits include attracting more tourists, boosting inward investment and exports, attracting talent, enhancing currency stability, international credibility, influence and self-esteem (confidence, pride, ambition, resolve). While easily said, imagine the problems in motivating a few thousand people in a company to deliver a common and appealing audience take-out. Then with countries, magnify that challenge by millions. Thus, the reasons to bother with nation branding are more easily understood.
Even when applying brand thinking to packaged goods, there is a misconception that branding is just a logo or advertisement. Of course that is the tip of the iceberg. With organisations and countries there is much more beneath the surface. Thinking about countries as a culture is useful. Richard L Daft defines culture as “a series of values, standard interpretations, insights and ways of thinking that is shared by members and passed on to new members” (2). We prefer “as ‘glue’ that provides a common understanding to focus and motivate people to a common end.” The term ‘cultural branding’ also applies to the concept of nation branding as it better conveys the range of variables to manage:
All intertwine, influence and communicate to other nations, the media, including businesses and tourists.
The notion or image of a brand is defined by its audiences – what they think and feel about a nation. However, entrenched national stereotypes are difficult to change. So the start-point is to first understand their provenance – what’s good and strong and what’s weak and poor? Then to define what the brand should be in the future. To be credible and believable it must be truthful. It should also combine or re-express the good and design-out the poor. To change and embed a new, stronger and more vibrant image in audiences’ minds takes time. Ensuring consistent and appealing communication through media and people requires the consistent communication and behaviour by organisations and people alike. Like organisation culture change programmes, aligning national hearts and minds to a common goal, requires a multi-year effort.
Scotland was one of the first nations to embrace the concept of branding (3). However, direction and momentum behind the initiative has changed with changes of Government. Since devolution of power to the Scottish Government in 2004 the concept of nation branding gained in significance. Nevertheless much remains to embed understanding and align the various national stakeholders.
A nation brand is the sum of all of its parts; symbols, institutions, behaviours and beliefs. The terminology is relatively new but the underlying brand concepts are familiar.
Lessons that apply to successful brands in all walks of life apply to nation brands. They thrive through clear and distinctive communications and offerings that engage and exceed the expectations of their customers or audiences.
Building nation brands requires consistent, coordinated and concerted effort over time. This requires audience and stakeholder engagement to create a clear brand vision and strategy. Further by inspiring and uniting national organisations and individuals to create and implement plans to deliver the brand. This is where the difficulty lies.
Establish guidelines to make sure that the sum of the parts reinforces the whole. For example, a brand architecture that defines the role and message of the Tourist Board, Board of Trade and others. Also create a ‘brand book’ (or website) to define the symbols and images used online, in literature and exhibitions.
So what’s the next branding challenge: Perhaps Planet Earth? The Kryptonians had better look out!
(1) Hy Mariampolski, QualiData Research Inc. New York, ‘Selling Brand Brazil’, Coppead School of Business, University of Rio De Janiero, Rio De Janeiro, April 2010
(2) Richard L. Daft, ‘Essentials of Organization Theory and Design’, South Western College Pub, 2000
(3) Reproduced by courtesy of the Scottish Government