The Best (and Worst) Brand Extensions

Thinking of nudging your brand name into a new category? Good luck. But please, read this first

It’s a plane! It’s a purifier! It’s both!

In theory, launching a successful brand extension should be easy. All you have to do is take a familiar name and slap it on a new product in another category. Then again, in view of history’s epic flops including Hooter’s Air, Colgate TV dinners and the Evian water-filled bra, perhaps it’s not that easy. Regardless, each year witnesses a new crop of brands that try. And judging from the results of Adweek’s exclusive reader survey of the past year’s best and worst extensions—conducted in partnership with brand-extension agency Parham | Santana—it’s clear that some marketers know how far they can stretch a brand name, while others have gone clear around the bend.

Fortunately, says Parham | Santana president John Parham, “there’s a well-trod pathway to success, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.” His firm’s considerable research has shown that all successful extensions rest on the same three pillars—fit, leverage and opportunity. Research associate Edward M. Tauber, Ph.D., elaborates: “The brand should be a logical fit with the parent brand; the parent should give the extension an edge in the new category; and the extension should have the potential to generate significant sales.”

Of course, we didn’t ask our 10,500-plus online respondents about all that; we just wanted to know what they liked and what they didn’t. But Parham’s perusal of the results at right, he says, backs up the three-pillar model. It also explains the reasoning behind the instantaneous, almost visceral response that consumers usually have to brand extensions. In Parham’s words: “Some folks say ‘Yeah!’ and some just say ‘Huh?’ ”

1. Nestlé Crunch Girl Scout Cookie Candy Bars
2,283 votes
Candy bar-sized Thin Mints? We’ll bite.

2. Duracell Powermat

2,017 votes
The pitch: Famous battery brand pioneers wireless charger for mobile devices.

3. ZzzQuil

1,737 votes
A sleep aid from the makers of NyQuil—the folks who already know how to knock you out.

4. Orville Redenbacher Ready-to-Eat Popcorn

1,079 votes
A famous brand name’s spin on one of our favorite snacks.

5. Starbucks Verismo

1,042 votes
The java king rolls out the definitive coffee maker.

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