William Joseph Communications

Five Puzzling Brand Extensions

Each year thousands of new products enter the marketplace and many of these products will fail. Some are from new companies and others are launched by already established groups. Some of the most famous product flops of the last 40 years are New Coke, Betamax, and more recently Google Glass.

In addition to new product launches, established companies with strong brands will often attempt to extend their brand. When a direct correlation is made between the brand and the extension, for example Clorox Bleach expanding into a wider array of cleaning products, these extensions are successful. Successful brand extensions also leverage the qualities of the existing brand, as well as the emotional connection the brand makes with its consumers.

Why Brand Extensions Fail?

Arguably more interesting than the successful brand extensions are those that have failed. Brand extensions most often fail when a direct correlation is not made with the parent brand. A strong parent brand can be detrimental to launching sub-brands as consumer associations are so fixed they are impossible to overcome. In these cases, products should be launched as sub-brands instead of extensions. A sub-brand is a brand that operates on its own without a direct connection to the parent company. For example, Pfizer is the parent company for sub-brands, such as Advil, ChapStick, and Robitussin. All of these brands are stand alone.

At William Joseph, we work with many clients who are trying to market a wide array of products and services that are not always related. Through our strategic process we can determine whether these products and services can work under one brand or if they need to be segmented. Brands could be segmented as sub-brands or divisions or the parent brand.

There are lots of great examples available, but we have narrowed down the list to five famous, and definitely puzzling brand extensions.

  1. Kitchen Entrees by Colgate

In 1982, Colgate launched Kitchen Entrees by Colgate. These were frozen entrees intended to compete with products, such as Lean Cuisine. The strength of the Colgate brand was the downfall of this product, as the strong association of toothpaste with meals did not appeal to consumers.

  1. Zippo, The Woman Perfume

Another example where a strong association with the parent brand did not connect to the brand extension. Now off the market, Zippo Perfume was packaged in a bottle made to look like a large Zippo lighter. Customers could not help but think the perfume would smell like lighter fluid, not to mention the even stranger association of spraying yourself with a large lighter.

  1. Evian Waterbra

Popular bottled water company Evian made a brief foray into the lingerie/swimwear business. By all reports it is unclear what this product was all about. It could have been playing on the trend of bras enhanced with water gel or quite possibly just a bra filled with water to cool down. Some believe it was for water storage and it was also rumoured to be worn as a bikini. The odd association between bottled water and a bra were the first problems with this extension, as well as the lack of clarity around the purpose of the product. It was also released as a single product and not a line of items, not to mention who wants the Evian logo on their bra or swimsuit. Evian was reaching with this product and as a result, it was a huge failure.

  1. Smith & Wesson Mountain Bikes

Smith & Wesson, the famous gun maker, produced a mountain bike that had little correlation with its famous guns other than the Smith & Wesson name. Although available for individual consumers it is now sold primarily as a mountain bike for police officers. There is also some speculation that Smith & Wesson bikes are manufactured by a different bike company and sold with the Smith & Wesson logo. There do not seem to be any advantages of owning this bike unless you are extremely loyal to the brand.

  1. Hello Kitty Beer

Hello Kitty is famous for brand extension and appears everywhere from children’s toys to bedsheets. Hello Kitty Beer is a low-alcohol beer targeted to women that comes in a variety of fruit flavours. Hello Kitty Beer could also be an attempt to expand for a children’s/teenage brand into an adult market, but blurs some lines and could be potentially disastrous.


In order to launch a successful brand extension it is important that there is direct correlation between your brand and the extension. Gather input on your brand extension internally and externally to determine this correlation. The connection may seem obvious to you on the inside, but the connection needs to be obvious and meaningful for the consumer. If product and focus group testing reveals that there is not an obvious connection, but you still feel the product is outstanding, consider developing a sub-brand. Use the resources of the parent brand, but launch the product on its own. This way you will enjoy a successful product launch and avoid failure and brand dilution.

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