Can your brand reproduce? Lessons from insect societies

Brand extensions are one of the most common strategies which firms use to move into new markets by leveraging the equity they have accrued to their original brand.  In fact, launching brand extensions have become much more popular that completely new brands, particularly in fast moving consumer goods industries.

However, the strategy can also be dangerous if not handled correctly and there are numerous examples of brand extensions that have failed spectacularly, causing both financial losses and  damage to the original brand (Hooters Air anyone??)

Hooters Air: A brand extension which flew to close to the sun

Unsurprisingly, clients will often ask me: “Alec, we want to extend our brand, but how do we do it?  What is the best approach to take?  What works and why?”

A typical consultancy will encourage the client to maximize the “fit” between the original brand and the new brand and to make sure that customers perceive that the extension requires some expertise to make.

Bored yet?

I am.

In contrast to this out-dated paradigm, a new approach is needed, one which uses an interdisciplinary approach which allows us to look at a familiar problem with a unique strategy.

Thus, to address this question I turn to insect societies to answer this question.

In insect societies, only a few individual members of a colony can reproduce, whereas the other the other members of the colony have their reproductive capabilities suppressed.  Similarly, there are a few strong brands which consistently reproduce through various brand and line extensions.  Apple for instance with ipod, iphone, imac, itouch.  It won’t be long before we have an i-something for everything we ever need.

This image speaks for itself really

Extending this analogy further, a strong brand represses the reproductive capabilities of other brands. Apple’s well publicized lawsuit to prevent Samsung’s move into the tablet market with their Galaxy Tab is a striking demonstration of this phenomenon.

In insect societies, the ability to reproduce is generally a predetermined choice. However, this is not the case in the “brand” world.  What is the causal relationship between reproduction and strength in the context of brands?  Which comes first and does one concept cause the other?  In the case of Apple, does its strength lead to its reproductions, or has its reproductions lead to its strength?  And what does this mean for your brand extension?

A tough question.

However, it is something which our research team is currently considering at AnthonySchumann.  Initial insight suggests that the answer is likely a combination of both pathways and it is critical to consider feedback loops.

Generally, a brand must achieve some strength before it can extend, with these subsequent extensions serving to increase the strength of the brand.

So where is your brand?  Do you want it to be stronger?  Or to reproduce?

Let us know if we can help.

// Alec Schumann

About AnthonySchumann
Subtle Bravado // Creative Boutique. Ted Anthony - Vision Alec Schumann - Creative Follow @AnthonySchumann

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