One of the defining traits of a strong health and wellness brand is its ability to innovate and extend its product line and/or service offerings. Product innovation and extension are growth engines for your company, that in the best case, are part of a cultural commitment to getting better and expanding brand awareness, and of equal importance, market share.
Committing to innovation and brand extension is a cornerstone of business growth and cultural relevance.
However, before entering the product development phase, it’s essential to explore the branding and marketing decisions you’ll need to make to ensure your new product disrupts everybody’s else market without injuring yours. Proactively doing so helps you avoid the disaster of marketing a terminal trajectory product or service offering by getting ahead of the market, oppose to responding to it.
Counting on your existing brand equity is smart. Just don’t count on it entirely.
Too many companies can charge ahead with a new product, fingers crossed, hoping their name and brand equity carry enough cachet to establish and grow the product automatically. Remember the Microsoft Zune? When they could have spent $20,000 on market research that would have told them it was a shitty idea, they chose to spend $289 million on a failed product that today is best used as a paperweight … maybe a doorstop.
Symbiotic vs. Disruptive Extension
Before introducing a new health and wellness product or service into the market, it’s fundamental to consider why you are developing the product in the first place, and for whom you’re developing it. Without answering these two fundamental questions – or if you’re answering them after your product/service launches — your efforts will be wasted on a market that may never have existed in the first place.
Your first step should be identifying a want or need from your brand community. By listening to customer engagement and feedback — whether organically through social listening or through paid research — you’ll identify what your fan-base wants next from you. Then you should explore whether you’re able to give it to them. This is known as a symbiotic extension, and it’s informed, somewhat intuitive, and relatively low risk.
A disruptive extension can appear sexier but it is exponentially riskier, especially for established health and wellness companies. There are only so many times you can pivot until your brand identity becomes completely clouded to existing and prospective customers. Understanding your motivations and the depth of your market intelligence must be factored in rationally before you jump.
We recently had a health and wellness client develop and launch a line of products without making it a priority to study the strength of their existing brand and whether it was robust enough to sustain an entirely new line of products, branding opportunities, and challenges. It was not.
The next time they suggested a line extension they were willing to listen to the agency (us) who suggested some formal and informal market research. The results determined they were not in a position to move into a new market. Instead, another option was pursued which resulted in the branding of a whole new company that is currently flourishing in the US.
A good example of a symbiotic brand extension can be found no further than the condom aisle. Durex learned that instead of extending their brand with disruption in mind, they’d stick with what they know best: sexual healin’. Developing products that enhance the effectiveness of their existing offerings — i.e. lubricants and sex toys — made it natural for consumers to buy into these new products. Notice how you don’t see Durex brand baby diapers? That’s thoughtful brand innovation. That’s understanding your brand’s essence, promise, archetype, and personality. And that’s making sure your consumer “gets it”.
By engaging in a process that evaluates product opportunities in light of customer needs and competitive alternatives, you’ll never have to explain to your fans and investors why you’ve released a new line of chewing tobacco as a health and wellness company.
Don’t Extend For The Sake of Extending
Whoring out your brand name for use on a wide variety of product extensions may be a good short-term way to make money, but the long-term effects can be detrimental to your brand. People might lose sight of what your brand is all about if it appears to about everything. When consumers no longer understand your point of difference in the competitive landscape, you fade into obscurity and irrelevancy.
Developing new products is an exciting opportunity for any company, but you need to understand the landscape you’re operating in and ensure you’re not delineating too far from the original spirit of your brand.
Extending your brand thoughtfully will ensure you keep your existing customers and create opportunities to engage with new ones. That’s how you build a brand community … and a business.