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In industry speak, when a brand releases a product that departs from their usual product line, this is known as ‘brand extension.’ Entrepreneur Richard Brandon is perhaps the master of brand extension, with Virgin encompassing everything from air travel (very successful) to bridal fashion (not so successful). Clearly, brand extension can be very powerful when done well, which typically involves keeping the new product broadly relevant to your headline product (for example, when Hersheys released a range of chocolate milkshakes). However, there are times when brands push extension to its limits and the results can range from inappropriate to bizarre. Here are a few examples brands getting it wrong – and one that gets it very right.
Evian Water Bras
Apparently, Evian felt that overheated breasts were something of a summertime epidemic, and responded by releasing a branded water bra / bikini top designed to cool down ladies’ chests. Turning to clothing in order to promote bottled water seems extremely muddled – although, as this piece suggests, a fashionable cooling garment may have genuine applications for women with certain medical conditions. However you feel about the water bra, many would agree that beach bunnies – and Evian – were doing fine without it. And what was to stop women from simply filling the cups with tap water?
Cheetos Lip Balm
Eating Cheetos typically leaves you with tell-tale orange lips, which is perhaps what the company were thinking when they released Cheetos Lip Balm. Food flavours used in cosmetics are typically sweet and fruity – think strawberry, cherry and coconut – so it is not surprising that the cheesy tang (or fluorescent colour) wasn’t to everyone’s taste. Such brand extensions have a typically short life. If the lip balm was a free promotional item then it would have been passed off as a novelty but making it as an actual product that people will buy is a bit far fetched. Let’s just call it yet another failed marketing gimmick.
Hello Kitty Toilet Roll
The Hello Kitty franchise is Sanrio’s golden goose and, thanks to a global obsession for all things pink, it is possible to get your paws on everything from Hello Kitty car decals to cookery sets. But if you feel your bathroom is lacking in the kawaii department, you can stock up on Hello Kitty branded toilet roll. I’ll leave it up to your guests to decide on whether that’s cute or creepy. As a footnote, always remember that such a brand association is always a risky bet. If your brand is functionally not connected with people’s morning toilet rituals then you do not want to get there. You get the picture…
Harley Davidson Cake Decorating Kit
When you picture Harley Davidson’s typical customer, you would be forgiven for picturing a Hell’s Angel figure and not necessarily someone that likes to indulge in home-baking (of course, there ARE exceptions). But that didn’t stop Harley Davidson from releasing a branded cake decorating kit. In fairness to the company, who received a fair bit of flack for it, the kits were probably targeted at young motorbike fans and would in fact make an exciting centrepiece at a children’s birthday party, but in any case it was a stretch too far for the brand.
JLS / Durex Condoms
For contrast, here is an example of brand extension that was very successful but also served a noble purpose.
British X Factor runners-up JLS are no strangers to branding and have their own perfume, fashion line and a range of other merchandise – but their “Just Love Safe” campaign had without a doubt the most social impact. The branded condoms were part of the band’s work for the JLS Foundation, which works with charities to promote sexual health and family planning. The band may have performed their last single in 2013, but this is one example of branding that will have a lasting impact for all the right reasons.
About the author
Vicky is a branding enthusiast and Mad Men know-it-all with an unhealthy obsession for creative logos and fonts. She works with promotional products company Stuart Morris who – thankfully – are yet to release branded toilet rolls!
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