Brand Expansion: Is It For You?

Most of the time, the sampling at the LCBO is great. How about a couple of sips of wine? What, it’s not even noon yet you say? Well, someone great once said “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere”. Then last week at my local LCBO (Where, by the way, there is a person directing traffic 7 days a week in the parking lot. I wonder what THAT says about my neighbourhood), they were sampling the new GUINNESS Black Lager. I am not necessarily a Guinness kind of gal, but decided to give the new product a try.

As far as I was concerned, Guinness was the kind of company that focused on making one product, and making it well. It’s odd that I lived in this oblivion after years spent working behind bars, then in service industry marketing departments, and finally having spent over a year on the Blade team creating the incredible Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm craft beer brand. I believed if I knew a lot about one product industry that would be beer. Tasting the Guinness Black Lager ultimately lead me to a bit of research on Guinness and what other products they have launched.

Guinness RedThe Guinness brewery was established over 300 years ago, when in 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease for the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin. Today, Guinness is owned by Diageo, and each year over 1.8 billion pints of Guinness are served in over 150 countries around the world. Over the years they have tried acquiring new consumers by launching a variety of Guinness styles, some more successful than others. Amongst those that did not stick was Guinness Red, a lighter taste and coloured version of the beloved Stout, which was on the market in 2007. It is still listed on the Guinness website, however it does not seem to be available for consumption. Then there was Guinness Light in the 1970’s, Guinness North Star, Guinness Brite Lager and Brite Ale, Guinness Pilsner, Guinness Gold and Guinness Shandy, just to name a few. This many attempts at product expansion made me wonder. How come some brands are able to bring to the market varieties of their beloved products, while others fail (some pretty miserably)?

A great example of a brand expansion is the flavoured vodka craze we are in the midst of. It is unclear if it was Smirnoff or Absolute that started the trend, but it seems that every vodka brand out there is now trying to introduce flavours to their product line. And people are loving it. There are some great selections such as citrus flavours, or even coconut and chocolate. And then, of course, there are the weird ones: PB&J, Pickle, Horseradish, Tomato, Bacon, Fruit Loops, Gummy Bears or even Cookie Dough! Not all of these are received well, but overall, the flavoured vodka trend seems to have done great, with over 25% of overall vodka sales coming from flavoured options.absolut flavoured vodka family shot

And I could definitely not write this blog without mentioning New Coke. Whether you were young, old, or not even born, the story of the 1985 flop of the Coca-Cola brand is lore. They decided not only to expand, but to replace an old and loved product by a brand new one. Needless to say the consumer protest had them back with the Classic formula in a matter of months.

Expanding your product offering to gain a new segment of consumers is a great idea. You can leverage the equity of the original brand; take advantage of existing consumers, brand recognition, relevance and credibility. Needless to say that launching a product variety is easier and less costly than launching a brand new product.

Here are a few steps you should take in order to ensure success with your product expansion:New Coke Poster

1) Do your research – is there room in the market for your new product?
2) Protect the original – make sure the new product will not cannibalize your market share.
3) Ask your brand community – do they have interest in the new product? Is it something they think will offer value?
4) Don’t try to replace something that works!
5) Piggy back your old brand as much as you can, without hurting it.
6) Don’t give up! New ideas are always good. They might not all work out, however, if you don’t try, you may never know how brilliant your idea might have been.

What are some of your favourite brand expansions? (Or flavours of vodka? – I would have never thought there would be a good use for the Bacon flavoured vodka, until my bartender friend pointed out how delicious it would be in a Caesar. Silly me!)bakon vodla caesar


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