Most major companies first find success when one big product breaks through with customers. Then they try to expand their horizons (and profits) with “brand extensions.” Successful examples: Coca-Cola’s Diet Coke, or the Disney movie studio launching Disneyland. Unsuccessful examples: keep reading.
The name “Colgate” probably makes most consumers think of toothpaste, which is great—companies fight for years to have that kind of name recognition. However, the other thing people most associate with toothpaste is that you use it and then immediately spit it out of your mouth…which means Colgate’s line of frozen dinners (Colgate Kitchen Entrees) was extremely ill-conceived.
Chicken Soup for the Soul
Back in the ‘90s, Chicken Soup for the Soul was a publishing and cultural phenomenon. Readers bought tens of millions of copies of the various books in the series that collected inspirational, positive, and heartwarming true stories. Beyond the original “flavor,” there were books like Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul, Chicken Soup for the Soul in the Classroom…and then non-book branded products, like Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul. It was a little confusing for customers—the cans depicted the ingredients that make up chicken soup, but it was actually a dog food.
Paula Dean made millions as a cookbook author and Food Network host offering up traditional Southern cuisine. (As far as Deen was concerned, that meant she used tons of butter in most every recipe.) Before some racist comments she once made came to light, Deen’s empire consisted of cookbooks, packaged food products, and, for some reason, a line of chairs and bedroom furniture for kids.
Bic makes stuff that’s inexpensive and impermanent—qualities that define ballpoint pens and razors, its two most successful products that would otherwise have little in common. A third entry in the cheap-and-disposable canon didn’t work out for Bic. As it turns out, few people wanted to buy cheap Bic Underwear, designed to be thrown out after a use or two.
Harley-Davidson makes the world’s most famous motorcycles. It’s a brand that promises the freedom of the open road, the purr of a powerful engine, and, very briefly, a well-decorated cake. The bike maker licensed its name to Bakery Crafts, which made kits that gave consumers the opportunity to paint the Harley-Davidson logo on top of baked goods with the exact right colors.