BK Boxers Leads Pack of Worst Line Extensions

What do Burger King underwear, Kellogg’s hip-hop street wear and Allstate Green insurance have in common? They all were voted among the worst brand extensions of 2008.

Earlier this month, TippingSprung polled 689 Brandweek readers and other marketing professionals, online, about this year’s flurry of line extensions. Among the other duds: Coca-Cola’s RPet clothing at Wal-Mart, Playboy energy drink and the Disney Sleeping Beauty executive fountain pens priced at up to $1,200.

“The bad ideas keep flowing. It’s amazing and there’s nothing we can do to stop it,” said Robert Sprung, co-founder of the TippingSprung marketing consultancy, which has been conducting the survey for five years. In past years, Precious Moments coffins, Hooters airlines, Cheetos lip balm and Salvador Dali deodorant won the dishonor of being selected for the list.

This year a number of factors, namely the rise of green marketing and the fall of the economy, helped shape some of the marketer’s selections. Allstate Green insurance was spotlighted as a prime example of greenwashing, according to three quarters of respondents. The program offers paperless statements (like most institutions) and a $10 donation to a nonspecified organization. “There is nothing particularly green about it,” said Martyn Tipping, TippingSprung co-founder.

Coke’s RPet clothing line, made from recycled bottles, suffers from the fact that its plastic packaging is viewed as being a big part of problem, said Tipping. “Going green goes beyond just recycling and cutting back on paper. That’s almost the cost of entry if you want to be green.”

Almost 58 percent of respondents viewed the RPet line as more greenwashing than green.

So what were the most unfortunate product rollouts in light of the recession? The Sleeping Beauty pen was selected by a third of respondents, followed by the Porsche Design Kitchen and its $100,000 price tag.

Still, the Burger King underwear was selected as the single most inappropriate line extension according to 45.5 percent of those polled. “Marketers are so in love with their brands that they think consumers are as well and will go to the lengths of wearing their brand name on their underwear,” said Laura Ries of Ries & Ries brand consultancy. “While people love the Whopper, they don’t want to parade around in underwear that says, ‘This is where my big, fat ass came from.'”

Bill Cross, who is a vp at Broadstreet Licensing Group—the agency that inked the deal—said marketers are missing the point: “It’s a fit for the predominantly male 18-24 target. People who are buying it aren’t reading Brandweek and don’t care anyway. BK likes things to be a little edgy. Their CMO, Russ Klein, loves stuff that’s a little weird.”

Kellogg’s hip-hop street wear was second worst (22.8 percent), followed by the Kanye West’s travel site (Kanyetravel.com). “It’s a classic logo slap. What possible value does Kanye West hold for a travel site? How does it differentiate?” said Sprung.

Of course, not all of the product rollouts were bad. Campbell’s V8 Soup was selected the top beverage extension. Nearly 77 percent of marketers said it was a good idea. It  is worth noting the beverage category is notorious for its misses, as illustrated by this year’s flops including Rolling Stones Icewine, Dr. Dre sparkling vodka, the Playboy energy drink and even Twinings coffee.

Juli Mandel Sloves, senior manager of nutrition and wellness communications at Campbell Soup, said V8 soups work because, “It’s a marriage of our two strongest equities, the taste of Campbell’s soups and the vegetable nutrition of V8 Juices.”

Coppertone sunglasses and Mr. Clean performance car washes were named the best brand extensions, according to 31.2 percent and 25.7 percent of respondents, respectively. “These are just classic, logical extensions,” said Sprung. Mr. Clean makes sense because it has a comprehensive brand extension program with a numerous car cleaning accessories. “It test marketed the car washes and plans on launching more. The category is ripe for someone to occupy it.”