Brand Extension – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Another week almost done and the weekend is right around the corner!!!

wiig party

As I was working and thinking about promotions and ideas to improve Bedford Street Marketing today, the idea of brand development and brand extension popped into my head.

We, as a firm, are still in the brand development phase – fine tuning our social media posts, updating our website, building landing pages, running ads on Google and other search engines. Through every bit of content and advertising, the concept of premier marketing services at an affordable rate is paramount. Mixing in fun posts about entertainment, history, national days and sports – we are building the image of a intellectual, fun, capable marketing firm that is here to deliver results and not break a client’s budget. We’re trying to have a quirky, yet serious image – because marketing is what we love to do.

I started thinking about Brand Extension as well. Once you establish the brand image for a product or firm and have a loyal base of followers, customers and brand ambassadors, the need to expand and offer new services/products is a necessity. Stagnation is something that will destroy a business and one must always be thinking about ways to keep their messaging fresh and current. Below is an example of how brand extension can be visualized:


So with that in mind, here are a few examples of brand extension that I thought of and some I want to emulate and others, I see as lessons in Brand Extension gone wrong.

1)The Good:

Swiffer: In 1999, the original Swiffer was introduced and was a huge success. In some cases, replacing a broom, which can retain dust and gets dirty over time, the product revolutionized “sweeping”. As the product sold and people became brand ambassadors, the Swiffer brand had established itself – cleaning with ease and more efficiently.

In 2001, leveraging this success, they introduced the Swiffer Wet Jet (which I love by the way) as an alternative to mopping. Capitalizing on the same idea as the original swiffer, this took the concept to a next step – mopping. The beauty of the idea is that the customer keeps buying the cleaning solution and pads – but no longer has an old mop laying around their house or condo. Again, it was a success and met with approval of those who were brand loyal to Swiffer.  There are now multiple iterations of the original Swiffer on the market and they are one of the most successful cleaning products on the market. To date, over 15 Million Swiffer products have been sold since 1999.

This is an example of taking a simple idea – building the initial brand and product to meet a consumer need. Creating an easy to use product and doing marketing that engendered trust and positive customer feed back. And from this success, their Brand Extension into the Wet Jet and other products has been one to watch. They kept the general idea and concept the same – but adapted it to different needs. Swiffer is a great example of Brand Extension done right.

O, The Oprah Magazine:

Oprah Winfrey is a true role model to all entrepreneurs. She has built an amazing brand and media company through her unique and empowering message of hope. Starting out as a local news reporter to her own talk show in 1983. By the mid-90’s, she was a huge celebrity and had used her fame to give back to her brand ambassadors. We all remember this moment, which has become Meme famous:

you get a car

In 2000, she launched her magazine, O. It was an instant success, with a paid circulation of  over 2.7. The magazine was an extension of a brand image that was carefully built over 20 years  – a message of hope and inspiring people to live their best lives. The message of self-improvement was a natural fit for the print format. From the magazine, other concepts like the Oprah Book Club have been spun off into successful ventures.

As I noted above, Oprah Winfrey is a great example of how important it is to make sure that initial brand image is built properly and cultivated. Once that base brand image is in place, brand extension into the right channels is a sure way to make a difference in the community and increase your bottom line.


I’ve spoken about Marvel before in my post Marvel Studios – A lesson for Entrepreneurs.

To paraphrase a bit, Marvel went from a brand that made terrible movies to arguably, the Gold Standard of comic book films. Their first film was the Punisher, with Dolph Lundgren, in 1989. They had limited success with the Wesley Snipe Blade trilogy. The rest is, as they say, is history.

However, it’s Marvel’s cross-over success with their Netflix series that I want to focus in on tonight. Leveraging their MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) success, they ventured into the new medium of consuming entertainment, Netflix. Their initial series Daredevil was a huge hit and met with critical acclaim. This was followed up by Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher and The Defenders. All of these series have been well-received and extremely well-produced.  They produced the same quality, maintained their brand image and found success with a new audience in a new media channel.

This is one of the best examples of a company taking it’s established brand image – moving into a new media format and being extremely successful. Yet another example of how brand extension should work.

The Bad:

Star Wars:

I won’t spend too much time on this brand – as I may have beat it to death with my post Star Wars – A Brand in Crisis?

The one point I will make here is Disney purchased, in my opinion, the measuring stick for any Sci-Fi franchise. Lucas had built up a loyal fan base and an untouchable brand image for Star Wars. The recent films have strayed from his vision and has split the fan base. Harsh criticism has been leveled against a franchise by it’s own fans – a franchise that has some of the most loyal fans in entertainment.

Disney’s reaction to this criticism has been mediocre at best. Instead of addressing the criticism of the new direction, they have gone on the defensive. Here is a great shot of Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson and the Disney response. A Lucasfilm representative had this mug on her desk:

bad branding

As you can see, they coin terms like “fanboy tears” or fall back on deflecting criticism to most recently Russian bots posting negative reviews or labeling the critics with any “-ism” that they can conjure up. Basically, the schism their direction caused is not being addressed and this causes damage to a brand image. By not honestly looking at the direction they are taking the brand, they are hurting themselves. Disney Star Wars is prime examples of Brand Extension done poorly.  I put this in the bad category only because the Force Awakens, Rogue 1 and Last Jedi had good box office numbers – so  financially, they are ok, but from a brand extension point of view, they are failing.

The Ugly:

New Coke:

The Coca-Cola company is an Ameican iconic brand since 1892. In general, Coca-Cola has always been masterful with their branding and who can forget tag lines like “Have a Coke and Smile” or the I’d like to teach to world to sing advertisement.

world to sing.gif

In 1985, Coke saw it’s market share fall to 25%, down from 60% in 1960. Consumers seemed to prefer Pepsi, a sweeter soft drink, in blind taste tests. The plan to combat this decline was to replace the original formula, the one that had been successful since 1892 with “New Coke”.


The reaction to the new formula definitely did not go as planned. The reaction was negative and in some cases, hostile. The Coca-Cola company has said “To hear some tell it, April 23, 1985, was a day that will live in marketing infamy… spawning consumer angst the likes of which no business has ever seen.” Some of the criticism even crossed geographic boundaries, with Southerner’s blaming the “Yankees” for changing a brand that was heavily rooted in the Southern culture.

Just 78 days after it’s release, Coca-Cola announced it would be returning to it’s original formula. A perfect example of a company that saw negative feedback to a brand extension attempt and immediately reacted in the right way. They returned to their roots and spun off New Coke as Coke 2, which was discontinued in 1992. Unlike the Sci-Fi brand mentioned above, instead of fighting the negative criticism – they returned to what made them successful and still kept the new direction, just under a new name that was not promoted as much.

Coke New is still considered one of the paramount cautionary tales of brand extension gone wrong.

Well, that’s it for tonight. Hope you can glean some insight from the above examples on how to properly extend and expand your brand.

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