Product recognition is a marketing fundamental. But what really is the difference between products vs brands? The early brands used marks like the red triangle of BASS beer. This was actually a symbol of strength similar to Castlemaine XXXX or Wadworth 6X (Figure 1). Others from Ford to Kellogg to Boots used the simple signature of the owner. These were the first product differentiators.
Products that are named and recognisable in design and packaging can then be recalled by their qualities, properties, and attributes and benefits. This is all very logical so far ….
Yet brands also convey ‘values’ – the importance, worth, utility or usefulness of something (1). They build an image or perceptions in the customer’s eyes. In turn they also build a relationship based on emotions of trust and care, responsibility, and respect. We call this brand positioning.
Simply, adding more products under the umbrella of the brand has many attractions. In particular, in today’s fragmented and targeted media environment. It gives weight to messaging, and scale to business. We call this brand extension.
So take care that brand values are well aligned to product performance. Especially in both technical and service sectors. A single poor experience in a restaurant will lower the brand reputation across a chain.
This is a problem that befell Boeing. When their much-vaulted new plane, the Boeing 737 Max, fell out of the sky it took two years to sort out. The planes are now undergoing final stages of airworthy certification. And Ryanair have now ordered over 200. But they are now named the Boeing 737-8200. No Max (Figure 2).
So to summarise the difference between products vs brands. Brands are a value-added subset of products and services. All brands are either products or services. However, not all products and services are brands. Not all products and services have a good awareness, a distinctive image nor a strong emotional connection with consumers. Nor the massive share price over earnings multipliers of the strongest brands.
So be clear about the difference between products vs brands. And manage the risks and invest accordingly.
(1). Oxford English Dictionary. While the word ‘values’ is useful to a point, it is also a somewhat vague term. And thus we prefer the more specific concepts of benefits, personality traits, beliefs and behaviours to understand and describe brands. They are more powerful to develop brand strategies.
What are brand extension strategies for success? And when is it better to extend your brand or launch a new brand? Let’s start with a short story to illustrate some of the factors to consider.
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 the USA, he launched Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp, later renamed KitKat (Figure 1). Fast-forward to today and there are over 200 KitKat brand extensions.
He also transformed Rowntree’s Chocolate Beans into Smarties. So today you can now find large Smarties, Fruity Smarties, and ice cream Smarties, amongst many other brand extensions.
While launched as ‘fruit confectionery’ brand extensions, this gave KitKat and Smarties the focus to grow into discrete, and successful new ‘chocolate’ brands. Harris was lauded for this success, and as a result, he became Rowntree’s company Chairman in 1941. Today he is also viewed as a father of modern marketing (Figure 2).
There are two principal benefits of extending your brand. So consider what you wish to achieve with your brand? Either or both to:
However, the further a brand extends, the greater the potential dissonance from the core. While this may imply 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?
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, requires building new equity. Thus at higher cost (See Figure 4). This form of brand extension strategy is likely to be most suited to launching a ‘new to world’ product or variant which requires a more differentiated positioning.
There are two principal brand extension strategies; ways to extend a brand, either by evolving from the brand core or to realise a brand vision.
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.
In 1935 Boots launched a retail own brand called Boots No7. Originally, it was just a skin care line, though cosmetics followed and subsequently 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. So in 1971 the decision was made to build an independent fashion brand, exclusive to Boots.
New product innovations also added to the ‘skin care’ equity, with (No7 Special Collection) Positive Action Cream (1980) (designed to compete with upscale skin care brands). Then in 2007 No7 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 two weeks. Today ‘Protect and Perfect’ is a sub-brand extension in its own right. It also sells outside of Boots’ stores (Figure 5).
Olay is 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). It also encouraged 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. Also 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 clearly different and upside potential is great.
Need some help? Our brand strategy services are always tailored to your needs.
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)
Even Apple, one of the world’s most successful companies, visionary, secretive, allegedly antipathetic to research, fails occasionally. Witness poor iphone battery performance, speedily reversed software changes and easy-break charging cables. While following the ‘gut’ sometimes leads to new product development success, success is far from guaranteed.
Equally, following ‘sacred’ product development ‘gate’ processes sometimes fails to guarantee success. This is because gate processes are just that – processes. And processes are ‘a series of actions or steps’ to help management manage risks. Also to prioritise opportunities and avoid wheel reinvention. Thus processes tend to be rigid, inflexible, and less suited to some circumstances, such as rapidly changing markets.
In the 1990s Reader’s Digest was a multi-billion dollar business. Its’ mailings were legendary. Their magazines and books sold in the millions, and if the sales data were published, most products would appear in the best-seller lists. The products and promotions were based on extensive testing, and response rates commonly in double digits. Then in the UK, along came the National Lottery. Almost at a stroke response rates fell, as the attraction of Tom Champagne’s £50,000 Free Prize Draw declined in comparison with the opportunity to win millions on Lotto.
The fact that a substantial proportion of products and services fail rather than succeed suggests there is more to do (1). While failures are set-backs, there is also lots to learn from failure. It helps improve the odds of innovation success.
How to anticipate and overcome failure? It is easier to observe and comment with the benefit of hindsight.
While there is much good in health-care, there are also many stories of unfortunate casualties and accidents. In the UK alone, there are nearly 1m reported patient incidents (fatal and non-fatal). In the US, preventable medical error in hospitals is the 3rd biggest killer. Problems occur mostly when clinicians work diligently and with good intentions. Problems include complexity (WHO lists 12.4k diseases and disorders each requiring different medical protocols), stretched resources and decision making pressures. There are also other reasons, for example, cultural, where communication, assessment and reporting is less than open and honest. Errors occur where practitioners are so focused on a task at hand that true perspective is lost. Thus compounding issues. Early remedy is sometimes frustrated through fear to speak-out or failure to accept reality – evidenced in a blame or a cover-up mentality (2). So called cognitive dissonance.
Conversely, where the mindset to is to ‘fess up’, document and investigate the reasons for failure, heath-care outcomes rise.
The air industry has the lowest fatality rates of all forms of transport. How is this? Through systematic recording of the reasons for failure and then learning from them. As a result, installation of black-box flight recorders in aircraft is a globally agreed practice. This allows full investigation of the reasons behind any air accident. In turn, black box flight recorders, have inspired protocols covering landing, takeoff, cockpit safety and more.
A conventional approach to product development is to identify a pain point, or unfulfilled customer need, and then design a better product or service or fill a gap. When faced with nozzles that ‘clogged’ and halted the washing powder manufacturing process, Unilever put their top mathematicians and fluid experts on the case. After a long study period they came up with a new design. However, the powder produced still blocked the nozzles. Almost in desperation, a team of biologists, with no knowledge of fluid dynamics, were then tasked with solving the problem. They took a very different approach. First to manufacture and then test ten different variants of the nozzle. The winning nozzle was then copied and revised ten times and each retested. Through 45 generations and nearly 450 failures, an outstanding nozzle emerged. In other words, through rapid evolution, scientists learned how to make a better nozzle (2).
What about the online world? Take the ubiquitous and multibillion behemoth, Google. Google tests and releases hundreds of millions of lines of code daily. Billions of builds prompt millions of automated tests to run across hundreds of thousands of browser instances daily. Testing is Google’s ‘secret sauce’ and it takes pride in both its development speed and failing on a daily basis.
Google’s approach may have shortcomings, but they are willing to publish it and open it to the scrutiny of the international testing community so that it continues to evolve. Everyone who writes code at Google is a tester and responsible for quality. The mantra is “you built it and you break it” i.e. code a little and then test the build. Then code more and test more. However, while product development and testing go hand in hand, different responsibilities lie with different groups. Beyond development or coding, Google has created roles for engineers (Engineering Productivity) to make other engineers more productive and more quality-minded. Their mission is to avoid re-work and redundant code due to sloppy development.
A development aim is to build a core product and release it once deemed useful to as large a crowd as feasible. And then seek feedback and iterate, rather than ship a large number of features at once. Gmail is a good example; remaining in beta mode for four years to signal that the product was still under-development.
Instead of distinguishing between code, integration, and system testing, Google runs small, medium, and large tests emphasising scope over form. If a problem doesn’t require human cleverness and intuition, and suits automated testing, then it is. Again during early Google Mail development, 40 user groups of 2.5% experienced different colour shades. Tracking determined the best shade to optimise engagement.
Do you have a product development challenge? If so check out our marketing consulting services.
(1) According to the Product Development and Management Association (www.pdma.org), 2004, 42% of new products failed between 1990 and 2004.
(2) Syed. Matthew, Black Box Thinking – Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance, 2015
(3) Whittaker. James. A, Arbon. Jason, Carolla. Jeff, How Google Tests Software, 2012
Should writers and illustrators lead tv programme development? Or researchers and marketers who know what sells best in the crazily competitive world of children’s media? According to Simon Cowell, “Research just kills creativity because people lie or they say things they think the person wants to hear, or they over think it”. But is he right? Here’s a summary of the debate at The Children’s Media Conference (1). Moderated by Guy Tomlinson, Managing Director, The Marketing Directors, the session involved John Rice, CEO at Jam Media, Esra Cafer, Vice President Brand Management and Marketing at Chorion Ltd and researcher, Shari Donnenfeld.
According to John, the ideas behind Jam Media’s successful children’s programmes emerged in different ways. By serendipity – happy accidents!
PICME started out as a multimedia invitation for John’s daughter Rebecca’s two year birthday party. One friend was so enthusiastic about it that he even offered to pay for it.
Roy, the Badly Drawn Boy was created in the opposite way to PICME. The film originated by John’s partner as a parody of his life; as a bitter 28-year-old who couldn’t find work in animation because he was so badly drawn. A CBBC development executive spotted the idea and thought that the fish out of water theme appealing to the CBBC audience. In the tv series the bitter 28-year-old is turned into fun loving everyday boy.
Tilly and Friends evolved from a series of stories by Polly Dunbar. By bringing in a child psychologist the story world expanded from 16 pages to 26 episodes!
Shari argued that research should support the creative process, as the process is complex. There are also lots of fingers in the creative pie, and it is easy for creatives to be removed from a child’s world.
Many creatives think they know kids, yet they are adults, who use razors and drink alcohol. Some are also parents who care for kids. There are however also some creatives who act like kids, but even if they do, they still don’t necessarily know what kids are about.
Children inhabit a different world, a more digital world than their parents. They are exposed to multi-million pound movies, games, e-books and ipads. It is hard to know what’s in their heads at a point in time. The sons and daughters of creatives inhabit an even more different world to ordinary kids. A world where words like 3D and CGI are regularly passed over the dinner table. As a result these children are neither normal nor representative.
Further, unlike live entertainers, tv programme makers are unable to adapt to live audience responses. A clown, for example, can easily change his or her act if he dies on his feet. However, programme makers can’t. So programme makers need to think like the clown and go and talk to children first.
Doing research with kids is like inviting them to the board-room table. They can help create a programme, while not heading the table. However, even though children are a worthy audience, research should facilitate creativity rather than act as a barrier to creativity or simply to ‘green-light’ programme development. Kids are naturally created and enthusiastic – so involve them as partners in the creative process.
Esra argued that there is a value in using brand management in the making of tv programmes. Brand marketing is a process to define the target, the programme and product offer. Also to communicate that offer to audiences and forge an enduring relationship. In other words to create brand love!
Chorion starts with characters, settings, worlds and stories already in place. It aims to understand, create, update, and extend brand properties to make sure that audiences love them. Rather than just translate the written word to the screen, research understands and defines the brand, the brand DNA, i.e. what makes it unique and appealing. Rather than dampen creativity, brand thinking reveals new opportunities and maximises relevance.
Make Way for Noddy has a traditional preschool audience of 3 to 5 year olds. So when developing Noddy in Toyland, research verified the audience, who they are and what they want. Findings revealed an audience that was growing-up and moving on to competitive products, such as Moshi Monsters, sooner than thought. This insight focused programme development on 3-4 year olds.
Research also spotted opportunities to extend the brand. It revealed that Noddy is a safe brand, to use in home, and not to show off to friends. This provided the confidence to focus on developing home products such as bedding and pyjamas, rather than lunchboxes or coats.
Each programme development project is different. Some require more creativity and others more research. What’s right depends on the stage of development and whether more or less is known about the intended audience. Thus use creativity, research and marketing together – they are fine bedfellows!
Get this right to establish a foundation for success. Further, for every show in production, have several in development. As innovation is a numbers game, this allows some to fall by the wayside.
Also create the right conditions for creativity to flourish. While great ideas occur over a pint of Guinness or through sheer hard work, creativity is not limited to writers nor bottled and poured on. So prefer a more inclusive approach involving different disciplines.
In other words, enable your audience to fuel creativity and be the main arbiter of choice. You’ll find this liberating!
First, adapt the research process to reflect property origins, differences, challenges, risks and rewards.
Start by involving marketers and researchers at an early stage (via a short low-cost meeting). This will better represent target audiences’ needs, eliminate biases and also generate more saleable ideas.
Next, conduct informal research with family members and friends by showing programme materials before more substantial laboratory-esque research. And then talk to the trade and licensing people, for example, to understand cultural issues and what works in certain territories.
Finally, design audience research to fuel the creative process rather than evaluate or dampen it! Avoid closed questions such as “don’t you love this green dress?” as this invalidates the results.
Also use research to shape the brand strategy or ‘brand book’ and guide writers, illustrators and animators. Help all know the audience, and their needs. This empowers creatives to make the pilot and develop the series while retaining management control.
Create two scripts, a ‘brand book’ and a pilot to justify brand stand-out and appeal and also woo co-funders. While every tv programme development differs, the end game is the same – to secure funds.
(1) The Childrens Media Conference takes place annually in early July in Sheffield.
Product innovation is the lifeblood of many businesses. The proportion of sales due to new products from businesses competing in fast moving markets is often over 50%. Yet higher still in technology companies. So why is it that so many products fail, and what can you do to ensure success? So here are seven enemies of innovation. Spot them and slay them whenever you can!
Seventy five percent of products or services fail for this reason (1). This is particularly the case in technology markets where new innovations are often just new features trying to find a consumer need.
Even the famous Sony Walkman originally failed for this reason. The initial consumer response to the ‘Walkman’ was ‘why do I need a portable tape player when I have one at home?’ Only when Sony identified its ability to change consumers’ mood and invested in making the product ‘cool’ did sales start to take-off.
In markets where there are many competitors, new products or services must also better meet consumers’ needs, find and create new consumer needs and turn needs into wants.
The more successful the business the louder is the mantra ‘we’ve always done it this way’. Thus the more entrenched mindsets and processes become, and the greater the risk of quenching the creative flame. So remember the low-cost airlines effect on national airlines such as British Airways, Amazon’s effect on retail book-stores and Apple itunes’ effect on the music producers. This is where driven people, independent innovation teams and external agents can help cut through the malaise.
For new products to stand-out requires creativity. While great ideas or discoveries can occur in a Eureka moment (think Newton and apple trees) it is a myth that creativity is the preserve of the few. Everyone can be creative. It just helps to understand what it is and how to do it. Creativity is an ability to make new connections and generate ideas. It is a thinking skill – an ability to think laterally ie from side to side, in a divergent fashion – not just in a linear, logical, convergent fashion.
There are many techniques to generate ideas and solve problems. These including reframing or looking at a problem from a different view-point, understanding and changing the rules in a market, through sensory stimulation and visioning or dreaming. For example, if Ernest Hemingway the writer ever felt bereft of ideas for his stories, he was known to sit in his rocking chair, relax and drift off to sleep. You can try this too. In the absence of a colleague, do as Hemingway did – hold marbles in your hand and work in a room with a wooden floor!
Creativity also requires thinking time – time to create more, and iterate and build ideas.
As well as time, hard work and due process is important. Creative sessions are useful to kick-start an innovation process, though it is easy to kill ideas and hard to develop them in a few short hours. Like plants, ideas need to be nourished and given time to thrive otherwise they will die. While 3M discovered their ‘weak’ glue by accident the successful commercialisation of their famous post-it notes took twelve years. This was in part due to the persistence of its inventor, Spence Silver. He believed passionately that his idea had potential. He eventually connected with another colleague Art Fry, who suggested how his glue could be applied.
Successful product innovation is also a numbers game. If you create and assess many ideas the chance of success is greater than if you create and assess just one. The US Product Development and Management Association (PDMA)(2) found that ten serious ideas or concepts are needed to bring one product to market successfully. Products nurtured through a rigorous product development process have a greater chance of success, with around three quarters being launched compared with just under sixty percent overall. Considering innovation as a process also helps institutionalise or embed it in the corporate culture. At 3M, for example, innovation is defined as ‘a process that creates products that create a new basis of competition’.
While many notable inventions are attributed to lone inventors, success is more often due to teamwork – combining several brains to reach a common goal.
Even great brand owners, such as Marks and Spencer experience failure; most notably when the decision to stock a pudding or shirt largely depended on the pleasure that it gave the Chairman of the company. One of the greatest film makers ever, Stephen Spielberg has also flopped; consider the allegedly self-indulgent comedy ‘1941’.
Assembling a team and creating the conditions for innovation to flourish has inspired many notable successes during the last century. These include the creation of the first jet fighter, and the first animated movie. Also brands such as Virgin Atlantic and the Friends tv series.
Brands exist in the eyes of customers not just the management team. Understanding what customers consider existing, latent or potential strengths can catalyse innovation as much as widely held management views. Understanding perceived brand strengths and weaknesses can reveal new facets of a brand and provide new springboards or foundations for innovation. Caterpillar has been a leading manufacturer of heavy duty construction vehicles since 1925. Recognising the rugged strength of the brand amongst construction workers and the fact that industrial chic is a recurring theme in the fashion business spurred successful expansion into footwear. Within the company, footwear is considered a ‘walking machine’ – from professional steel toe capped work boots, to stylish slip-on comfort shoes; and now clothing and toys.
Having a clear idea where you want your business to go focuses team energy and activity. In the 1950s, Sony had a vision to ‘transform the poor worldwide perceptions of Japanese goods’. Today few Western homes fail to have at least one of their products on display. In the US, Mr. Clean (Flash in the UK, Monsieur Propre in France) has led household cleaning since the late 1950s. In the US the vision is now to extend the brand into car washing.
‘Research only dumbs down great ideas’. If we had a pound for every time we’ve heard this message we’d be a very rich. This view is most evident in the creative industries. An industry where the gulf between the best and worst performers seems to widen every year.
Most assume that research means ’focus groups’. And perceptions are poor and thus lacking in credibility. Perhaps through experience or a belief that the sole purpose of research is ‘evaluation’. While evaluation research is useful this misses the point. Most consumers, even those as young as three or four, have an innate creativity and marketing ‘savvy’. Further, all are different; have different backgrounds, beliefs, skills and ways of thinking. Most are also naturally social rather than solitary and like creating and working with others. It means that there is a vast pool of creative talent available to address your challenge. This is a boon to product development.
Here’s how to address the seven enemies of innovation:
1. First, establish a product development process but tailor or flex it to different challenges and circumstances.
2. Create lots of ideas, give them time and conditions to grow. It’s easy to kill ideas but hard to develop them.
3. Consult and involve diverse colleagues in your product innovation process. No-one has a monopoly on good ideas.
4. Use the tools and techniques to engage, inspire and bring out the best in your team.
5. Involve consumers in the product innovation process. They can both create and build great ideas.
(1) Cooper , Robert. G Winning at New Products, 1993
(2) Product Development and Management Association, http://www.pdma.org, 1991
There is widespread recognition among children’s tv producers that income from tv programme sales is seldom enough to cover production costs so brand licensing is often centre stage to increase revenue. However, if you start by thinking about brand innovation the upside is even greater.
The current brand licensing process is typically an auction. A producer makes a show. It’s then sold to broadcasters and aired. Production of a ‘style guide’ follows, with a synopsis of the show, the key characters and design elements. It’s usually an impressive tome, a wonderful work of art. This is then sent to potential licensees with a brief asking them to come up with new product ideas. The product rights are then sold to the highest bidder.
But the current model often leads to little more than putting a label on a product. While there are a few bucks in adding a logo to a pair of pyjamas, pencil-case or rucksack, the benefits seem marginal. Does the label aid brand recognition, stand-out or value? More likely it relegates your brand to a commodity found in cheap and cheerful stores. Thus undermining the brand.
Therefore thinking from a supply-push product development mindset alone isn’t enough. It’s akin to throwing mud at a wall – and hoping it sticks.
Moreover, markets are increasingly competitive. Media owners compete against retailers, and consumer goods companies. These businesses are amongst the most sophisticated organisations in the world. So, learning from, and out-thinking them, is helpful.
Consumers choose based on their needs; whether an offer meets their needs, and also by weighing up the benefits of competing offers. They subsequently buy when their ‘needs’ become ‘wants’. The retail trade also buys and stocks-up similarly. Based on what sets their store apart, and also drives store traffic and meets their customer’s needs.
So invest in audience or consumer research to make better product development and brand innovation decisions. In particular, invest in meaningful insights on consumers’ needs and behaviours. Also understand what engages and sets your tv series apart. Look for unusual character and personality quirks. Do this at the same time as programme production, in order to maximise both programme development and brand innovation opportunities.
Stimuli (1) brings to life ideas. Thus better enabling consumers to react to ideas, and challenge and build them. It therefore moves conversations beyond the superficial to the detailed. In turn, helping to uncover more insights. In addition, insights become more meaningful and better articulate how to differentiate products and services, and also command a premium. All can then be hard-wired into ‘style guides’ and also brand marketing plans in order to deliver the return on investment you need.
Brand licensing is a valid and powerful means of extending a brand into new markets and growing sales. However there are commercial upsides in thinking beyond slapping your label on a product. So think about what currently sets your brand apart or could in the future, and develop a brand strategy based on these insights.
Extending programmes beyond the tv screen to create brands requires the programme’s unique essence to be truly understood. Do this by seeing through the audience’s eyes. Also by using creative stimuli to explore, and push creative boundaries.
The same thinking process applies to any organisation thinking about how to extend their product or service into new markets. Carpe diem.
(1) Stimuli reproduced courtesy BBC Worldwide. These are just a handful of some 70 plus ideas created in order to explore new product and brand innovation opportunities for The Secret Show. Read more about our approach to brand extension and using creative stimuli in research.