It is called “brand extension” and sometimes it goes a bit too far, as Business Week points out Online Extra: Brand Extensions We Could Do Without – concerning Harley-Davidson’s new cake-decorating kit.
Each year, Tipping Sprung publishes, in conjunction with trade publication Brandweek, a survey of Top Brand Extensions. The survey also includes a booby prize category for the worst extension. And in the latest survey, published in December, 2005, Harley-Davidson’s cake decorating kit took that honor.
How quickly tides turn; in 2004 (the first year that Tipping Sprung conducted the survey), Harley-Davidson topped the list of best brand extensions for its move into Harley-branded footwear. The company’s precipitous slide illustrates how easy it is for even the most established brand to make a mistake. (When asked about sales of its cake-decorating kit and other spin-off products, Harley-Davidson declined to comment on any brand extensions—good or bad.)
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We live in an age of relentless co-branding (consider Motorola’s ROKR phone, featuring Apple’s iTunes software). We’re seeing more and more licensing of celebrity names (such as Sylvester Stallone’s High Protein Pudding or Trump Cologne) and the requisite movie tie-ins (like Disney Couture’s recently launched, $225 Pirates of the Caribbean skull ring, designed by the movie’s on-set makeup artist).
In his 2003 book Brand Failures, Matt Haig offers up some reasons why some of these extensions flop. These include “basic mistakes such as setting the wrong price, choosing the wrong name, and getting too paranoid about the competition,” Haig writes. These no-nos can cheapen a luxury brand or make a mass-market label seem inaccessible, alienating a loyal audience, or flooding the market and overexposing a brand.
Another example – taken from Business Week’s slideshow on problematic extensions is The Jaguar X-type:
the Ford publicly predicted that the Jaguar X-type would help bump overall Jag sales to 200,000 models a year. But the so-called cheap Jaguar didn’t fool consumers, who saw it as a cheap Ford with a Jaguar hood ornament.
A perfect example of how to weaken an intangible asset!