A strong, well-conceived brand that holds a position of high value in the minds of your customers and end users can open doors to your new product development team. These two paths in particular can lead to opportunity for Brand Extension.
Through Retail and/or Distributor Partners
Retailers and distributors are looking for competitive differentiation. If you have a strong brand, valued by them and their customers, you have the chance to extend your presence within their footprint—be it brick and mortar, or online.
The first direction to go is deeper into your existing category. It is classic product line extension. Think Crest toothpaste or Yoplait yogurt—the Consumer Packaged Goods industry is full of these types of brands.
But then look further. Start to explore adjacent categories (support by research is vital) in which your brand could be relevant and meaningful. This is brand extension. Think about a brand like Kohler—they didn’t always own the whole bathroom experience, but they do now. And the kitchen!
Imagine for a moment, owning the Kohler brand and sitting with your prime retail partners and saying “What else could we be bringing to you? Research with home builders is showing us that our brand could easily enter the ‘XYZ’ category and be immediately accepted by them”. A strong brand allows conversations like this to be fruitful.
A few years ago BOLTGROUP worked with Hunter Fan on a new product category. It addressed the need to “move air to enhance the environment”—a Hunter Fan brand proposition, confirmed by research and accepted by Home Depot. The new design was a pro-quality, portable contractor fan for use on construction sites in hot, humid conditions. It was awarded “Best New Product” at the bi-annual Home Depot line review. The power of the Hunter Fan brand gave them the opportunity, and Home Depot the confidence, to enter and succeed in an entirely new category.
Above and Below Your Current Brand Position
Many brands offer a good-better-best selection of product lines, but these are usually feature driven and designed to hit a range of price points within the stratum the brand occupies. But what about searching out and exploring completely different strata?
Consider for a moment some of the major players in the apparel industry. Ralph Lauren comes to mind as one of the most prolific brands across multiple consumer and price segments or buyer strata. There is Polo Ralph Lauren, Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Ralph Lauren Collection, Lauren Ralph Lauren, Double RL, Ralph Lauren Kids, Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren, Chaps, and Club Monaco. They all bear the hallmark of Ralph Lauren, but are found across the whole retail strata, from Neiman Marcus to Kohl’s. Consumers buy into the Ralph Lauren brand at hundreds of dollars for a pair of slacks all the way to less than $40 for a pair.
The major factor allowing this type of brand reach and extension is quite simply “trust”. The brand has built a reputation of quality and value, recognized instantly by consumers. It has also connected through American-inspired lifestyle and affordable luxury—aspirational qualities sought out by consumers across the globe.
Is your brand strong enough to look at the marketplace from this perspective? Do opportunities exist for product lines similar to your current ones, but in completely different strata where you can compete for consumer segments currently untapped by your brand?
If you decide to explore these avenues of brand extension, just be careful not to alienate your existing loyal customers. Do the research and concept testing to assess the viability and level of consumer acceptance. Many brands have tried and failed. John Deere is one that came very close to damaging their brand when they first went “consumer” with their lawn care products at big box retail. Black and Decker failed more than once, when trying to enter the “pro” power tool market. They eventually dug DeWalt out of the archives and the rest is history.
If you’ve built your brand on a strong, well-conceived foundation, and been its loyal steward—protecting its reputation and value—then test the opportunities that your disciplined efforts have earned you.
Riches may well be in your future.