One of the greatest temptations for a brand is whether to stretch into another category.
When I worked on the Yoplait brand ten years ago, there was a debate whether to extend beyond yogurt into chocolate pudding. By a few measures, it made sense. Both yogurt and chocolate pudding are dairy products that sit in the refrigerated case. The market size for pudding is large. It would be efficient to spread brand investment across two categories. Yet the big question remained. Could the Yoplait brand stretch that far? How would pudding consumers feel about a Yoplait pudding? How would pudding affect the health halo that was part of the Yoplait brand?
When I was at Method, we often said we wanted to be “Apple, not Snapple”, meaning we wanted to be a master brand, not a single-category brand. That philosophy led to a brand that successfully stretched from window cleaners to hand soap. But it also led Method into body washes and shaving creams, which proved unsuccessful. We constantly grappled with how far to stretch the brand. The number one category requested by Method consumers was toothpaste.
Deciding how far to stretch a brand is a conundrum. The answer is not one-size-fits-all. Just because the Virgin brand stretches from music to airlines to bridal wear to cell phone service doesn’t mean that every brand can. It can confuse consumers and it can erode the brand.
But the greatest risk of stretching a brand too far is that it creates a distraction from the main business. Chasing a new category can leave the core neglected.
Hiut Denim launches this month with a philosophy I find incredibly refreshing: “Do one thing well”.
“We make jeans. That’s it. Nothing else. No distractions. Nothing to steal our focus. No kidding ourselves that we can be good at everything. No trying to conquer the whole world. We will just do our best to conquer our bit of it. So each day we will come in and make the best jeans we know how. Use the best quality denims. Cut them with an expert eye. And then let our ‘Grand Masters’ behind the sewing machines do the rest.
There is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from making something well, of such superior quality that you know it is going to stand the test of time. It makes the hard work and the obsessing over each and every detail worth all the effort. That’s our reward. That’s why we stick to just making jeans. Yup, we just make jeans. That’s all folks.”
I’d love to hear your stories on wrestling with the Brand Stretching decision, particularly any ridiculous examples you’ve come across.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post. I’ll pick one comment at 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)