Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Don't Catch Brand Extension Disease

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Don't Catch Brand Extension Disease

Article excerpt

Marketers are a fickle breed. Aside from the usual list of ailments that afflict the general population, we are also vulnerable to a number of conditions unique to us. The most pernicious of these is logos extendos rabidus or, to give it its more colloquial name - stupid brand extension disease.

Typically contracted by young managers who don't receive adequate training at an early stage in their development, early indications of the condition include delusion and a loss of hearing, especially when customers are trying to tell you how stupid your idea is. More serious symptoms often remain dormant for many years until the manager achieves a prominent position in charge of a major brand. At this stage, the onset of the condition can be frighteningly quick and the results are often severe.

One recent, sad case is that of Jonathan Hewitt, group financial services director for Dixons. Until last month, Hewitt appeared to be an executive operating at the very peak of his powers. But earlier this month it became clear that he had contracted a very severe form of the condition, when Dixons announced an unlikely move from selling kettles to offering online quotes for home and motor insurance.

At the time, Hewitt said: 'The combination of our strong brand and in excess of 25m site visits every year mean that moving to financial services is a logical next step for Dixons.co.uk.' Here we see many of the classic symptoms. First, an apparent reliance on brand equity despite the complete lack of value that the existing brand brings to the proposed extension. Second, an ignorance of how competitive and cluttered the market being entered is. And finally, the inability to distinguish between a logical brand extension and an entirely bonkers one with no possibility of success.

The disease is yet more prevalent in the US. The worst recent outbreak was at upmarket lingerie brand Victoria's Secret, where chief executive Sharen Turney announced an extension of the brand into athletic wear The core competences that enable you to make great lingerie would seem to support the manufacture of athletic apparel. The problem is not production, but the usage occasion and differing brand associations between a very private bedroom and public gym. …

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