TippingSprung Fields Third Annual Brand-Extension Survey

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Survey, in collaboration with Brandweek magazine, names best and worst brand extensions in 10 popular categories

As the market becomes saturated with celebrity extensions, consumers are increasingly critical about the brand fit

Results from TippingSprung's third annual survey of brand extensions, produced in collaboration with marketing newsweekly Brandweek, revealed which extensions are most effective, which have potential to dilute the brand, and what makes some brands more extendible than others. Major trends in brand extensions were also uncovered.

"The survey was developed to help brand owners understand the value of their most important asset - their brand - and to intelligently find ways of unlocking that value through strategic extensions." says Martyn Tipping, president of TippingSprung, and one of the survey's authors.

Of course, extensions can go too far, raising the eyebrows of consumers or even weakening the core brand. The jury is still out, but this might end up being the fate of brand extensions like the Salvador Dalí deodorant stick, Diesel Jeans wine, and Chicken Soup for the Soul pet food.

The Top Brand Extensions. A total of 860 respondents to the survey chose the following top brand extensions:

  •     American Red Cross emergency radios were named best overall brand extension with 56.7% of the vote. Pantone Eurolux housepaints came in a distant second with just under 18%.
  •     Snoop Dogg pet accessories were named best brand extension in the pet category, winning 22.7% of the vote, nosing out second-place Pedigree ice cream treats for dogs, a co-branding extension with Good Humor (22%). Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Treats for dogs came in third with 21% of the vote.
  •     Budweiser barbecue sauce was voted best extension of a food brand with 30.6% of the vote. Trader Vic's menus on United Airlines came in second with 25.3%. Respondents seemed indifferent to Smackers Starburst Bath & Body Collection, which received only 9.7%.
  •     The best entry into the food category was won by Maxim Prime steakhouses (27.6%). Harley-Davidson beef jerky scored a strong second with 22.8%, with niche play New England Patriots hot dogs garnering 19.2%.
  •     The Vera Wang Suite at the Halekulani Hotel won best extension into the hotel category (34.1%), with the Palazzo Versace hotel a close second at 27.9%.
  •     Best extension of a reality-TV show was won handily by The Biggest Loser cookbook (51.2%), with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition women's tool kit a distant second at 20.3%.
  •     Hubba Bubba chewing gum was voted "most welcome return of a dormant brand" (44.2%), with the announced revival of the Bonwit Teller name coming in a distant second at 21.5%.
  •     In the ever-popular fragrance category, respondents gave the "smells funny" award for most inappropriate extension to Play-Doh perfume (the overwhelming winner with 65.1% of the vote). Respondents felt that KISS and Daytona 500 fragrances were also ideas that went too far.

Worst brand extension, for the extension that seemed least to fit with the brand's core values, was won by Cheetos lip balm (41.4% of respondents). The Salvador Dalí deodorant stick, part of a line of cosmetics and body-care products sold under the surrealist's name, came in second with 28.3% of the votes. Respondents also felt there was something inappropriate in Diesel Jeans wine and Chicken Soup for the Soul pet food. (Past "winners" in this category include last year's Harley-Davidson cake-decorating kit, and 2004's Hooter's Air airlines, which has since announced the suspension of regular commercial flights.)

Celebrity brand extensions. The survey also looked at the popular but crowded field of celebrity brand extensions: which extensions are logical, and which are too much of a stretch? Respondents voted "thumbs-up" or "thumbs-down" on a number of celebrity extensions:

  •     (Jimi) Hendrix Electric Vodka was voted "thumbs-down" by a large margin (65.5%). One reason for the vote may be that the generation who enjoyed Hendrix might be drinking Grey Goose today. Respondents might also have been aware that Hendrix was rumored to have died from a combination of drugs and alcohol.
  •     David Hasselhoff "Malibu Dave" surfing apparel was found unappealing by the vast majority of respondents (71.9%).
  •     SpongeBob SquarePants organic edamame was seen as a miscue by 84.1% of respondents, who perhaps felt that the move to brand fruits and vegetables (something Disney has also done) was inappropriate.
  •     Respondents were about equally split on Jeff Foxworthy beef jerky, LiveStrong lifecycle mutual funds (Lance Armstrong Foundation), and Willie Nelson Biodiesel fuel.

"As the market becomes saturated with celebrity extensions, consumers are increasingly critical about the brand fit," said Robert Sprung, CEO of TippingSprung, another of the survey's authors. "Although Lance Armstrong has reached almost mythic status, that doesn't mean a consumer will make investment decisions based on his celebrity. And despite Willie Nelson's embrace of environmental issues, his persona may not lend sufficient credibility to the sale of something you use to fuel your car."

Emerging trends in brand extension. The following are a few of the trends noted in the survey:

  •     Pet power. The pet category continues to see a lot of activity in brand extension. An interesting result of the survey: two of the top three winners in the pet category have little in the way of credentials as pet experts (Snoop Dogg pet accessories and Famous Nathan's hot dog treats). Ice cream treats from Pedigree, the entrant in the category with the deepest expertise and track record in the category, came in second to the famous rap star, whose main connection is the pun in his name. Lassie, the iconic celebrity in the category, came in a distant fourth.
  •     Branded destinations. The last few years have seen feverish activity in brand extension in the hotel and destination space - and with good reason. Hotels and other destinations are an ideal place to showcase brands, and attempt to embody an experience, which is the essence of what many "lifestyle" brands strive for today. The Vera Wang Suite at Halekulani was the overwhelming winner in the category. The reason probably relates to the brand fit and authenticity of the offering. The suite offers the consumer the opportunity to try the whole brand experience - and a single suite is the embodiment of an exclusive experience, one where the consumer knows that Vera Wang herself hand-selected and designed every aspect of experience.
  •     Brand revivals. Recent years have seen the revival - or attempted revival - of numerous "heritage brands." Whether the new brand owners can resurrect the brand, or reshape it in a way that resonates with its core audience, is a challenge that entails significant risk. Entrepreneurs are banking on the nostalgia factor; the question is whether the brand can be made newly relevant and make money after the initial excitement of an old friend being reintroduced. A skeptic may ask: the brand did disappear for a reason, didn't it? A surprising number of these attempt to capitalize on the tastes and smells of our youth: scoring high in this year's survey were Hubba Bubba and Holly Hobbie.
  •     Too much perfume. One of the easiest ways of playing off a celebrity is to put his or her name on a fragrance. But the category has become saturated, with some marketers applying brands that may not be a great fit. Perhaps the negative associations with sweaty rock concerts and oily pit crews lingered in people's minds as they voted thumbs-down to fragrances from KISS and Daytona 500. Fond childhood memories were not enough to save the Play-Doh perfume from being voted most inappropriate fragrance extension (this was a promotional item launched in honor of Play-Doh's 50th anniversary).

Background and Methodology of the Report

TippingSprung, a New York brand consultancy, observed that no major surveys focus on the powerful phenomenon of brand extensions. The first brand-extension survey was launched in 2004, to help answer key questions about brand extensions: Which extensions are most effective? Which go too far or otherwise dilute the brand? What makes some brands more extendible than others? What are some of the major trends in brand extension today?

The 2006 survey, carried out in collaboration with Brandweek, was sent to 25,000 branding and marketing professionals. Respondents came from companies like Avon, Conde Nast, Ford Motor, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, PepsiCo, and Target.

The survey was sent in the second week of November 2006, and results were collected until December 1, 2006.

A full survey report is available from TippingSprung (212-268-4800, ext. 201).

TippingSprung (http://www.tippingsprung.com) is a New York-based branding company with key practices in brand licensing, brand strategy, naming, design, and translation.

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