One of my favorite parts about branding and marketing is thinking about how a brand can expand. This is where, as marketers, we really have to separate out the brand marketing from the product marketing ... we can't just rest on the current product portfolio if we want the brand to continue to grow and grow. Some of these expansions are very close in, as they say, and others require learning an entirely new industry, yet still elevate the brand beyond its current line.
The more unusual the better, in my book, as long as they make sense coming from the brand and are well targeted to the consumer audience.
Delta Airlines, recently bought an oil refinery. Now that was probably less of a brand extension and more of a vertical business play, but it was an unusual move that makes a lot of sense. Granted, less about the branding and marketing and more about the business model but you probably get the point ... it's helping the brand better serve its customer base.
Victoria Secret, moving beyond lingerie. It's no secret that Victoria's Secret has grown tremendously beyond its original product line of panties and bras to become a true lifestyle brand. Skin care, makeup, swim wear ... and not just at malls but in various distribution channels including college campus stores. The brand now features an entire suite of products, but all centered around the women being targeted. Plus their entertainment properties continue to highlight the products yet grow the brand's pop culture presence. Interesting to note that they've tried products for men in the past, but it just has not resonated ... proof of a powerful brand centered around women and women's beauty.
Brooks Brothers, opening a steak house. Just this week Brooks Brothers announced that it'll be opening a steak house right near its flagship store in Manhattan. While not intuitively obvious, when you realize that Brooks Brothers, at its essence, is a "man's brand" then it kind of comes together. If you've ever been to a traditional steak house, then you'll notice troops of men of all ages congregating over a steak and a little booze. Only makes sense, while certainly out of their wheel house, for Brooks Brothers to try to capture that aspect of their target's lifestyle. If this test works, we'll be seeing openings in major markets around the country, bringing the brand even more into the cultural scene.
I've always found it to be a fun exercise to brainstorm ideas for brand extensions. It certainly opens up new business avenues, but also helps you to define what the brand is all about. A list of appropriate extensions and not so appropriate extensions works to refine your brand positioning, character, and essence.
If you manage a brand, big or small, give it a try. What's your experience? Jim.
- President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
- Author, The Experience Effect series
- Professor, NYU
- Contributor, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post
PS - PRWeek asked me to comment on the brand experience. Check out "3 Minutes with Jim Joseph" here.