TippingSprung Publishes Results from Fifth Annual Brand-Extension Survey

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The survey, produced in collaboration with Brandweek magazine, names best - and worst - brand extensions for 2008 in 10 popular categories

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Why didn't they think of that sooner?

Results from TippingSprung's fifth annual survey of brand extensions, produced in collaboration with marketing newsweekly Brandweek, revealed which extensions are most compelling and logical, and which are weakest and have the greatest potential to dilute the brand. Major trends in brand extensions were also identified.

"In this challenging marketing environment, smart brand extensions are being launched that build brand equity and open new revenue streams," says Martyn Tipping, co-founder of TippingSprung and one of the survey's authors. "At the same time, there seems to be no lack of brand extensions that raise eyebrows." Some of the more questionable extensions identified in this year's survey include Burger King men's apparel and Kellogg's hip-hop streetwear. Past "winners" in this category include: Precious Moments funerary urns and caskets, Hooters Air airlines, Cheetos lip balm, and the Salvador Dalí deodorant stick.

The Top Brand Extensions. The 689 marketing decision-makers who responded to the survey chose the following top brand extensions:

  •     Coppertone sunglasses was named best overall brand extension with 31.2% of the vote. Mr. Clean Performance Car Washes came in a close second with 25.7%, followed by Juicy Crittoure (Juicy Couture's pet line).
  •     Extensions in the service sector had a strong showing this year. Zagat physician ratings (in partnership with Wellpoint) came out on top, with 29.9% of the votes.
  •     Top brands showed creativity in extending into the training category: BMW Performance Driving School came out on top with 49.9% of responses, followed by David Beckham (Soccer) Academy with 27.9% and Sephora University a distant third.
  •     Cause marketing continues to be a hotbed of brand extension. Respondents gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up both to World of Good (locally sourced products, sponsored by eBay) and, perhaps surprisingly, the Thin Mint Cookie Blizzard (Girl Scout-inspired treat at Dairy Queen).
  •     In the "green or greenwash?" category, respondents gave a thumbs-down to AllState Green insurance and Coca-Cola rPet (clothing and accessories from recycled plastic), but a thumbs-up to Clorox Green Works (with the Sierra Club), a program that had received mixed reviews in the marketing trade press.
  •     Chocolate seemed to be the answer for many in this economy: the best "little bit of luxe" in a down market was won handily by Hershey's Bliss chocolates with 42.4% of respondents, followed by M*M's Premiums with 34.4%. The Wagyu beef burger at Burger King came in a distant third.
  •     Special-edition footwear continued to be fertile territory for brand extension, with Adidas World Poker Series, Reebok Monopoly footwear, and Reebok Kool-Aid scoring the most votes.
  •     Among beverage extensions, respondents gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to Campbell's V8 soup (76.8% positive), and Red Bull cola (61.4% positive). Respondents were hardly enthused about Playboy energy drink (79.8% negative) or Rolling Stones ice wine (85.9% negative). Hooter's Energy Drink was voted worst food extension in last year's survey.

Worst brand extension, for the extension that seems least to fit with the brand's core values, was won by Burger King men's apparel (45.4% of respondents). Kellogg's hip-hop streetwear came in a distant second with 22.8% of the votes. Respondents also felt that Kanye West Travel (trip-booking web site) and BMW yoga apparel were both poor fits for their brand.

"Marketers have come to learn that the potential harm inflicted on a brand can more than offset short-term revenue opportunities," said Robert Sprung, co-founder of TippingSprung, another of the survey's authors. "But that doesn't seem to stop many from launching extensions that in retrospect seem questionable or even ludicrous. Time will tell whether an extension like Hooters Air or Dalí is master-stroke or a miscue."

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

  •     Extending for a good cause. Everyone seems eager to hop on the green, all-natural, or cause-related bandwagon, and the brand-extension arena is no exception. Our survey drew a distinction between those extensions that are logical and holistic fits (eBay's World of Good) and those that seemed to pander or "green-wash" (US Army's First Infantry at Sears and AllState Green insurance).
  •     Teach someone to fish… Top brands are using training to strengthen ties with their customer base as well as with other businesses. In addition to the top-ranked BMW Performance Driving School, the survey highlighted Faber Academy (a creative-writing course from British publisher Faber & Faber).
  •     Keep it simple. The two extensions that came out on top this year could easily have been subtitled, "Why didn't they think of that sooner?" Coppertone sunglasses and Mr. Clean Performance Car Washes are brand extensions par excellence, in that they build on key brand equities and don't take the brand too far from its core strengths. They also complement broader product and service offerings built up over the years, in Mr. Clean's case with other car-care accessories (such as Mr. Clean cleaning tools, which was a top vote-getter in a previous survey).
  •     From Product to service. This year's survey showed a continuation of the trend of extending into the service category, adding a new dimension to the brand. In addition to the top vote getters, respondents saw the logic in Survivor Fitness Camp, CSI: The Experience (museum exhibit), and IKEA's pre-pay mobile-phone service. A particularly creative application came this year from a partnership between Penguin Books and Match.com: Penguin Dating offers an online matchmaking service to bibliophiles.

Background and Methodology of the Report

TippingSprung, a New York branding, marketing, and innovation 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 2008 survey, carried out in collaboration with Brandweek, was sent to 40,000 branding and marketing professionals. Respondents came from a range of companies, including Amazon.com, Dow Chemical, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, Nike, P&G, Sony, and Wal-Mart.

The survey was sent in the second half of November 2008, and results were collected until December 2, 2008.

A full survey report is available from TippingSprung.

TippingSprung (http://www.tippingsprung.com) is a New York-based branding, marketing, and innovation consultancy. TippingSprung excels at solving complex marketing problems and building differentiated brands that drive revenue and create enduring financial value.

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