Insights - Brand & Marketing

How Far Can Your Brand Stretch?

In the light of recent launches from Forbes and Pizza Hut, we ask if brand extensions should use the parent brand name

Pizza Hut merchandise fashion line
Photo: Screenshot from Forbes Store

We have often wanted to be a fly on the wall when some branding decisions were taken, but none more so than last week when media company Forbes launched the Forbes Store – “a digital destination for Forbes-branded apparel aimed at Forbes-loyal communities worldwide.”

Brand extensions are hardly new. Ever since the first Michelin Guide was created in 1900 to promote driving, brands have attempted to stretch their equity in search of newer audiences and higher revenue.

In a digital world, the potential of brand extension is vastly seductive. You can reach your audience within minutes, you can track how they behave and you can quickly bake feedback into the next product drop.

In listing all the data-driven reasons that point to brand extension success, however, brands forget to introspect on the all-important emotional question: “What are the fundamental demands of consumers from a category and can my brand address those better than existing competition?”

The Economist and The New York Times have stores but one could argue that these were more attempts at ‘branded merchandise’ than fashion.

Fashion relies on self-identification and signalling. Which is why brands like Harley and Porsche have successfully forayed into independent lifestyle lines. I know what it says about me when I sport a Harley logo on my T-shirt. Not so sure about the signal when someone wears Forbes or Pizza Hut-branded apparel. In this interview, Emily Jackson, Vice President, E-commerce, Forbes says “We believed we could create products that (our readers) would want to buy and wear because it would reflect their core values and interests, not just because it had the logo of a publication they read.”

Pizza Hut has also launched a limited edition fashion line

Even when brands have signalling power, it is important to get the brand personality right. Few will remember Apple’s dreadful, but mercifully short-lived, fashion line launched in 1988. Its existence is best explained best by the fact that it launched one year after Steve Jobs had been dismissed from the the company.

Apple’s ill-fated fashion line

As branding guru Al Ries said, “Names have power, but only in the camp in which they have credentials and when they get out of their camp, when they lose focus, they also lose their power.” Two particularly potent historic examples of this are Colgate‘s experiment with food and Bic’s attempt to stretch their ‘disposable’ brand attribute to women‘s underwear!

Colgate food and Bic underwear are immortalised in the history of failed brand extensions

Perhaps brands contemplating extensions would do well to take a cue from celebrity product lines. Even though they come from household names with massive emotional quotient, the majority of celebrity products opt for separate names, with an endorser from the celebrity. Think Fenty Beauty from Rihanna or The Honest Company from Jessica Alba. Closer home, there is Salman Khan’s Being Human, HRX by Hrithik Roshan and even Patanjali from Baba Ramdev. There are always exceptions, of course, like Martha Stewart and Kylie by Kylie Jenner, but a quick survey of recently launched brands like Florence by Mills, from Stranger Things star Millie Brown, or One Size by mega-influencer Patrick Starrr, will serve as evidence of this naming practice.

Salman Khan merchandise brand
Instead of being eponymous, Salman Khan’s fashion brand uses the name of his foundation

Which brands in India could launch merchandise?

Pie chart of Indian brands with merchandise potential
Respondents said they would buy merchandise branded by ISRO, HMT and Amul

We ran a survey answered by 2850 people amongst the THC community and the top choices were ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), HMT and Amul. Other mentions included Royal Enfield and Old Monk.

Which Indian non-lifestyle brand should launch branded merchandise?

If you didn’t participate in the survey, tell us in the comments what you think of these choices and which other Indian brands you would happily buy merchandise from.

5 Comments

  1. Interesting read – lets see how Forbes commence ages. It can be incremental at best but media companies are desperate for anything

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