It’s hard work building a big, recognizable brand. Naturally, once they’ve built one, most companies find it irresistible to try and extend that brand love to other products. Sometimes this is a good idea: Starbucks’s lattes are good; Starbucks’s latte ice cream is pretty yummy too.
But there are pitfalls in this innovation-by-extension strategy, none more egregious, perhaps, than the late, un-lamented Hooters Air airlines.
So each January we look forward to hearing the most hare-brained lunacy the R&D elves at various major American companies have perpetrated in the past year. For this, we have to thank the marketing newsweekly, Brandweek, and the innovation consultancy Tipping Sprung, which polls nearly 700 marketing big shots for their opinions to compile its annual Brand Extension Survey
This year’s winners for the best brand extensions include Coppertone sunglasses, Mr. Clean Performance Car Washes, Juicy Crittoure (a pampered pet line of doggie duds), and Zagat physician ratings. All logical, if not particularly mind-boggling ideas.
But it’s the losers we love, and this year produced some doozies. Our faves:
1.) Burger King men’s apparel (Stack a cheesy shirt on top of a hamburger brown pair of pants and accessorize with a lettuce green tie and a cardboard crown?),
2.) Kellogg’s hip-hop streetwear (Tony the Tiger hoodies and Rice Krispies trainers?),
3.) Kanye West trip-booking web site (discount rates at the Heartbreak Hotel?).
4.) La-Z-Boy spas. (forget the masseuse. Just turn on the magic fingers.)
And for those of us hungry for a little luxe in a brown bag economy, Tipping Sprung has added the following category: Best Low Cost Guilty Pleasure in a Down Economy. Winners in that cohort: Hershey’s Bliss chocolates, M&M’s Premiums, Wagyu Beef at Burger King, and a Porsche Wireless Racing Wheel for video games.
Other extensions were, well, a little mis-timed for a society where simply getting to keep your job counts as the new promotion. Witness these boners: the Disney Sleeping Beauty executive fountain pen (up to $1200), the Porsche Design kitchen ($100,000), CVS’s Beauty 360 (a chain of upscale beauty shops), and the Hermes Smart Car ($48K.) Hmmmmm. Must have seemed like a good idea at the time.
For a full copy of the survey report, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell us your favorite brand extensions — plus the ones you find most ridiculous. These days, we take our chuckles wherever we can find them.