So what is a brand extension? A brand extension is when a business or an organisation has a well-developed product or service and they leveraged their brand name to introduce a new product or service into an industry sector that they aren’t already in. By doing this, they can increase their brand equity.

So to explain that a little bit further, let’s take a look at that large global brand which is Colgate.

Colgate has been around for over 200 years now, and they’re a household name when it comes to the sale of toothpaste. Colgate were the first company to pack their toothpaste into tubes.

Up until then, toothpaste was sold in jars or tins, so you can thank Colgate for the fact that we have toothpaste in tubes to this day. Now, we all know that in order to brush your teeth, you need one other thing other than toothpaste, and that’s toothbrushes. And when they started, Colgate were not manufacturing toothbrushes, but it occurred to them that a natural brand extension would be to start to manufacture and sell their own toothbrushes. They’d built up such a connection with their customers as the leading brand in toothpaste that the trust was already there that if Colgate created a toothbrush, then their customers would more than likely buy that toothbrush too.

And when they did start that, it was a phenomenally huge success for the brand, and their equity phenomenally increased. And since the introduction of toothbrushes, we now all know that they now have extended their brand into other areas of oral hygiene, like dental floss and mouthwashes.

In a 2017 report, it has shown that Colgate has the third-largest slice of a $28 billion market in the oral hygiene industry. That’s some slice of pie.nBut this doesn’t mean that even global brands like Colgate can’t drop the ball when it comes to brand extensions.

Some brands can get a little bit overconfident and overstretch themselves or overreach into industry sectors that really do not suit the brand. The best way to use a brand extension is to leverage, as we said earlier, your brand name but also the trust that you have in an industry sector. You can extend your brand into other products or services which are closely related to that first main sector, and customers will no doubt buy from you. But here’s where Colgate dropped the ball.

They tried to make a brand extension into an area that people just were not ready for, and in fact, it’s become one of the world’s largest brand extension fails.

So, what was it? Well, in 1982, Colgate thought it would be a great idea that they should enter the frozen food market. Yep, Colgate making frozen ready meals. Right now, I’m going to say you an example of one of those ready-meals. And here it is, the Colgate beef lasagna,  minty lasagna! At least that’s what I have in my head when I see that Colgate logon splashed across a box with a beef lasagna.

And I think for most people that would be the case too, because we relate Colgate so strongly to oral hygiene and toothpaste and mouthwash that your first instinct is to think minty fresh. Nobody wants minty-fresh beef lasagna. They just don’t. And unsurprisingly, Colgate’s foray into the ready-meals industry failed, and it failed hard.

So you can see there are two extremes here with Colgate, the brand extensions which made sense to the consumer and linked back to their mastery of toothpaste production, toothbrushes, mouthwash, dental floss, which is natural, the natural brand extension to move into those different sectors.

But with food, it wasn’t natural, and it was a shock to the system, and it just didn’t work. So when brand extensions go well, they can go really well. But when they go bad, they can be disastrous.

Now, Colgate were in a decent position. They were a huge global brand, and so they could absorb that extension fail into the frozen foods market. For other brands, if they overextend and go into a product or service area that people just are not expecting and they don’t want it, then it can be disastrous for the main brand. It can bring the whole thing crashing down. So all I would say is that if you’re thinking about doing a brand extension with your brand, do your market research properly. Make sure that it’s something that would actually sell, that wouldn’t confuse the consumer, that they can see why you’re doing it, why there’s a connection. There is obviously a lot more deeper research and strategy work to do around a brand extension.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.


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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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