13 of the most successful (and least) successful brand extensions to inspire your own

I was impressed with Hailee Steinfeld’s performance after seeing her on The Edge of Seventeen. Her performance was so good that she earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.

But what amazes me about Steinfeld is not her acting skills. She is also well versed as a singer. Steinfeld worked with some of the most famous musicians like Zedd, Florida Georgia Line and Alesso to produce three hits, all of which hit the Billboard Hot 100 record chart.

Although Steinfeld is best known for her acting skills, her singing skills build her standing as an actress and expand her brand to more audiences and fans. And just like their foray into music, companies often expand their brands to create new products in industries where they don’t have market share.

These initiatives are known as brand extensions and allow companies to leverage their brand awareness and equity to develop more revenue streams.

In this article, you will learn more about what a brand extension is and see examples of extension ideas that might inspire you.

What is a brand extension?

Brand expansion is a marketing strategy in which a company uses its established brand name or image to introduce a new product or new product category to its customer base.

This strategy works best when the new product category is related to its parent category and is desired by consumers and customers.

Many companies use brand extensions because they can leverage their parent brand’s brand awareness and authority to reach new demographics and develop new sales channels.

One company that does brand extensions well is Apple.

Although Apple started out as a technology company that only made computers (Macs), it soon expanded its line of products to include music players (iPods), mobile devices (iPhones), and technical accessories (Apple Watch and Earpods). Even if all of these new products are different, the expansion works because Apple hasn’t strayed too far from its parent product category. Instead, it used its brand name to make its penetration a success.

What types of brand extensions are there?

Depending on what type of customers you have and what your brand is trying to achieve, you need to decide which branding strategy is right for your business.

Here are five different expansion strategies that might work for you.

Line extension

A line extension is when a parent brand launches a new product line in a category that is already known to its customers. With a line extension, brands don’t have to create new categories.

An excellent example of a line expansion is when soft drink companies add new flavors to their existing range of drinks. Other examples could be the introduction of new fragrances, sizes and colors into a product line.

Complementary product expansion

Another way to expand an established brand is to create complementary products to its main products.

For example, Nike, a sports brand, makes a variety of pieces of equipment, clothing, and other sports-related products that complement each other. We’ve also seen toothpaste manufacturers use this type of extension to their original brand by adding toothbrushes and other oral care products as new categories.

Expansion of the customer base

A company can create a branding extension for itself by introducing different product categories for a single demographic group.

Procter & Gamble (P&G), for example, succeeds well with the Pampers brand. Although P&G specializes in a variety of products, the Pampers line focuses on making products such as diapers and baby wipes.

Extension of company authorization

Companies with high authority in their industry can use this authority to develop new products.

Samsung, for example, has a big brand name in the technology space that allows them to market various products in related categories with some degree of success. And because of its brand image, most consumers would like to use a new product, be it an air conditioner or a mobile phone.

Brand lifestyle extension

Who would have thought that a tequila line from an energy company would sell out within a few hours? Tesla did it. And that was mainly due to the personality and lifestyle of CEO Elon Musk.

Elon and Tesla aren’t the only ones using a celebrity lifestyle to expand an existing brand, however. Other examples are the Yeezy range from Adidas / Kanye West and Fenty (a brand under LVMH) with Rihanna.

What distinguishes the best brand extensions from the worst?

Historically, the most successful brand extensions are those that are closely tied to the company’s core brand or flagship product, such as Gerber’s baby clothes and Dole’s frozen fruit bars. By entering tangential markets that can retain the unique association and perceived quality of their brand, companies can bring new products to market the benefits of which consumers intuitively understand, even though they have never seen them on the shelf.

On the other hand, a company can also take advantage of its brand and in turn ruin it.

Developing a new product in a market that is not closely related to your flagship product or core brand, as Zippo did with its women’s perfume, can create some problems.

This could lead to unwanted associations with your brand and weaken their existing associations and affect the perceived quality of your established products.

Whether you’re a SaaS company or a consumer brand thinking about expanding your product line, check out our list of the Most Successful and Least Successful Brand Extensions to inspire your own.

Examples of brand extensions

  1. Reese’s Puffs cereal
  2. Kitchen items from Food Network
  3. Gillette’s razors & accessories
  4. Colgate’s toothbrush
  5. Star Wars action figures
  6. Honda lawn mower
  7. Vitamin C tablets from Sunkist
  8. Cadbury’s instant mashed potatoes
  9. Levi’s bespoke classics
  10. Pillsbury’s Frozen Microwave Popcorn
  11. Samsonites outerwear
  12. Arm & Hammer’s Underarm Deodorant Spray
  13. Colgate’s Kitchen appetizers

Examples of good brand extensions

1. Reese’s Puffs cereal

Reese - Cereal brand expansion

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Reese’s Puffs was my favorite granola growing up, so maybe I’m a little biased here. But with all that chocolate-flavored cereal in the mid-90s, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup’s entry into the cereal market was smart and natural.

Today Reese’s Puffs helped General Mills, its conglomerate, capture the second largest share of the cold grain market share with some advertising campaigns highlighting how kids can eat their favorite sweets for breakfast.

2. Kitchen items from Food Network

Food Network Kitchen Items brand expansion

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With an audience of over 13 million people, Food Network remains one of the largest television broadcasters in the world.

Given the great interest that many people have in what it does, Food Network saw an opportunity to expand its brand by partnering with Kohl’s Corporation to bring its kitchen and cookware products to market.

The partnership was a success as Food Network served a specific audience with what they needed.

3.Gillette’s razors & accessories

Gilletes Razors Brand ExtensionImage source

Expanding Gillette to manufacture shaving products alongside razor blades was a smart move. Why? It’s hard to imagine someone shaving without shaving cream, foam or gel?

It was almost a necessity for Gillette to produce this complementary product for its flagship product.

4. Star Wars action figures

Star Wars action figure brand extensionImage source

Although Star Wars was popular with adults when the film was first released in 1977, many kids didn’t like it that much.

How did the franchise become popular today? The Star Wars brand expanded into the toy market. With action figures of characters from the movies, Star Wars was able to attract new audiences, build brand awareness, and generate a ton of sales in the process.

5. Colgate’s toothbrush

Colgate brand extensionImage source

Just like Gillette’s razors and shaving products, Colgate toothpaste and toothbrush are complementary products. But unlike the previous example, you literally need a toothbrush to use toothpaste. Otherwise you won’t be able to brush your teeth.

In my opinion, Colgate’s decision to enter the toothbrush market was a necessity and one of the best steps in securing the third largest slice of the oral care market.

6th Honda lawn mower

Honda lawn mower Image source

The Honda lawnmower range may not bring back the fondest memories of my childhood. Still, its entry and success in a saturated market speak volumes for a company best known for selling cars.

By leveraging its small engine expertise to enter the lawn mower market in 1978, it now has the seventh largest market share in the global lawn mower industry.

7th Vitamin C tablets from Sunkist

Sunkist brand extension

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With orange juice as a flagship product, the Sunkist brand has associations with oranges, health and energy. Sunkist produced vitamin C tablets, which spawned an entire line of business devoted to vitamins and nutritional supplements in order to strengthen and utilize this connection at the same time.

Examples of unsuccessful brand extensions

Not every brand extension can be a hit. Here are a few examples of brands that made mistakes in brand extension – and the lessons you can learn from them.

8th. Cadbury’s instant mashed potatoes

Cadbury brand extensionImage source

Cadbury is known for making high quality chocolate and candy. When it started making low-end foods like instant mashed potatoes, it’s no surprise that its association with the finest chocolates weakened.

Smash, its instant mashed potatoes brand, actually achieved mainstream success, but at the expense of the perceived quality of its flagship product. Cadbury finally sold Smash in 1986, over 20 years after introducing its instant mashed potatoes to the world.

9. Levi’s Tailored Classics

Levi's brand extensionImage source

When Levi’s introduced Tailored Classics in the early 1980s, the company already owned a large portion of its target market and wanted to enter some new markets to maintain its high growth rate.

One of those markets was men’s suits, but since his brand was strongly associated with a casual, rugged, and outdoor lifestyle, Levi’s new line of products contradicted his core identity and failed to catch on.

Consumers trusted Levi’s to make durable clothing that could withstand the wrath of Mother Nature, but it was precisely for this reason that they did not trust them to provide high quality bespoke suits.

10. Pillsbury’s Frozen Microwave Popcorn

PillsBury brand extensionImage source

Though Pillsbury is known for making food, its microwave frozen popcorn couldn’t compete with Orville Redenbacher or General Mills ’Pop Secret because its“ frozen for freshness ”product positioning offered insufficient value. Sure, putting your popcorn in the freezer (I think) is handy, but that benefit pales in comparison to a better tasting popcorn.

11. Samsonites outerwear

Samsonite brand extension

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Although Samsonite outerwear is more fashionable than Levi’s Tailored Classics, it still suffers from the same problem as the failed Levi line of products the brand extension does not match the core identity of Samsonite.

Samsonite is known for producing high-end luggage, suitcases and business bags. So if it doesn’t believe that the sleek features of its flagship product can be carried over to a completely independent line of products, its foray into the apparel industry could detract from its brand equity. This is most likely why Samsonite is no longer listing outerwear on its website.

12th Arm & Hammer’s Underarm Deodorant Spray

Arm n Hammer brand extension

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Arm & Hammer has successfully expanded its brand from an odor-neutralizing baking soda to laundry detergent, carpet deodorant and even cat litter. But one line of products that doesn’t fit his brand perfectly is armpit deodorant spray. Applying a product that shares an ingredient with powerful detergents on such a sensitive part of the body does not go down well with consumers.

13. Colgate Kitchen Appetizers

Colgate brand extension

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Although Colgate has done well by expanding its brand and developing various oral care products, it failed to get into the food space.

This brand expansion failed mainly because the sale of frozen foods was in sharp contrast to Colgate’s brand identity. With audiences already associating the brand name with dental care, it was difficult for them to see the company any other way.

Grow your brand

While brand expansion has its advantages, you also need to know that expanding your brand into uncharted waters is also challenging.

So before you implement an expansion strategy for your business, make sure it meets the needs of your ideal consumer.

Is it logical to start marketing a new product to my customers? How would a consumer benefit from this new brand or product? Have I done enough research to know how a brand extension would affect my original brand?

Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to start thinking about effective ways to grow your brand.

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