This month I’ve been revisiting my expertise on brand extensions to help a client create growth and increase the longevity of its thriving company. After re-reading Aaker and Keller’s studies, spending hours in the blogosphere and reviewing everything from Kellogg’s Special K case to Starbucks’s online community, I can say with certainty that brand extensions, like everything else in marketing, are only as good or as bad as the strategy behind them.
One of my mentors, the Dean of Industrial Design back in my college years, used to say that good design is the result of 90% planning and 10% doing. Similarly, successful brand extensions are the result of a careful, long-term road map for a brand. A road map that shows a clear starting point and desired destination(s).
Let’s start by understanding the port of departure: your brand. Are you clear on what need your brand is solving? If so, what is your brand value proposition? If you can’t answer these questions, you shouldn’t even be thinking of brand extensions.
If you are clear, we can move forward….
The second step is to define the purpose of the extensions. Are you looking to sustain your current market? Expand into new categories? Attract new audiences?
Got it? Now let’s talk a bit about Aaker and Keller’s theory. What products or services can be created to supplement the master brand? Is there a need to offer alternatives? Can your brand occupy a place in a different category? Or, as they (Aaker and Keller) would define it: What is the perfect complement to your brand’s product or service (e.g. Special K® and Special K® Plus Protein)? What substitutes can you create and why (e.g. Blueberry Special K® and Chocolate Chip Special K®)? Where is the transfer opportunity (e.g. Special K® Egg Sandwiches)?
Last but not least, make sure that your answers come from your consumers and users insights, not your competitors’ actions. And here, I’d like to end by reminding Apple that Steve was strictly opposed to the iPad Mini as an extension. Was he right?
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