Don't Stretch Your Brand Too Far - It Could Snap

May 1, 2006
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Don’t Stretch Your Brand Too Far — It Could Snap
By Robert McMath
Manufacturers have long sought to maximize space on retailers’ shelves by extending their brands. The perception has been that brand extensions leverage the base brand’s equity, capitalizing on consumer awareness and goodwill that has been carefully established after years of marketing investments. And so, companies like P&G, Colgate and Unilever have extended their leading brands in ever increasing numbers, sometimes stretching the variations to the limit of common sense.
Always on the lookout for new concepts, I was interested to see a new Ultra Concentrated Dawn dishwashing liquid “with Odor Eraser”. Among the various identifiers on the front label are descriptors such as “Splash of lime”, “Great on tough odors” and “Contains real citrus ingredients.”  The clear plastic bottle, topped with a convenient spout dispenser, shows off the lime-green colored liquid inside very clearly; the formulation contains lime, and the color reinforces the claim. Nicely done.
Yet, despite its appealing design, the product’s “odor-fighting” claim is curious. This new Dawn line extension implies that its citrus ingredients do a great job on tough odors, such as onion, garlic and fish. To me, it suggests that I need a special Dawn version to remove odors. And that leaves me wondering about the effectiveness of the basic Dawn branded products.
 If Dawn needs a special “deodorant” version to remove odors, I asked myself, what kind of a job are the other versions of Dawn doing in really cleaning my dishes?
Now the answer is that this version of Dawn is not only formulated to remove odors from conventional dishes, but also from plastic dishware and storage containers, which are notoriously difficult to clean.
However, this information is not positioned as a point of difference, but instead is relegated to small type on the package’s back panel. A classic example of an opportunity missed to properly differentiate this brand extension. And, worse yet, because of this inarticulated unique selling proposition, the introduction of this new “odor-fighting” Dawn inadvertently casts doubt in consumers’ minds as to the effectiveness of P&G’s regular Dawn formula. BP
The author, Robert McMath, has been a marketing consultant for more than 30 years. Through  NewProductWorks, he has advised major companies. He is the author of What Were They Thinking, a book chronicling the whys of product successes and failures. Contact him at 607.582.6125 or Visit
Thinking about a brand extension?
Consider these questions:
• Does the proposed extension fit your franchise? Does it meet your standards and align with your profile?
• What purpose will the new extension serve? Is it part of an offensive strategy to tackle new markets, or is it a defensive strategy in response to competitive threats?
• What is the potential net effect of the extension? Could the new productcannibalize sales of your existing offerings? Would retailers be likely to replace a lower-performing member of your franchise with the new extension?
• Finally, can your budget adequately support a brand extension? You’ll have to cover the costs of additional marketing and advertising, as well as getting your sales force up-to-speed.

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