Soft drinks and shower gel. Heavy machinery and hats. A film franchise and manly cologne. At bluemarlin, we believe that all brands have the innate potential to stretch their identity into certain foreign categories. The right positioning and a strong masterbrand at the core are of course vital. They can bring flexibility and purpose to any brand.
Firstly, let's look at the king of brand stretch, Virgin.
Record stores --> Everything
Richard Branson's multi-billion pound empire started as a record store in 1971. Forty-three years later it has stretched itself to businesses ranging from weddings to gyms to wine. Admittedly there are as many Virgin businesses that have flopped as there are those that have succeeded. The likes of Virgin Air, Holidays and Radio have done more than enough to ensure that duds like Virgin Jeans, Vodka and Cola didn't drag the company down with them. What was previously intelligence and expert strategy, turned into the biggest ego-trip in brand history.
Soft drinks --> Nail Polish
Yes, really. The fashion & beauty world is going crazy for a Coca-Cola/OPI collaboration. It actually makes more sense than you think. Coke has long been as much a fashion accessory as it is a soft drink. Ludicrously silly variant names such as ‘You’re So Vain-illa’ & ‘Sorry I’m Fizzy Today’ encapsulate the brand’s ‘Open Happiness’ positioning, only this time it’ll be to refresh your fingernails as opposed to your palette.
Machinery --> Clothing
Caterpillar makes diggers. It also makes shoes, bags, coats, and baseball caps. What’s the connection? Sturdy, utilitarian products stamped with a brand name every self-respecting workman respects and recognises.
Tyres --> Tennis rackets
Rubber is Dunlop's thing and tyres are its forte. It started making tennis & squash balls with its rubber and then made a rather dramatic leap to sports equipment from there. Top pro tennis players such as Jurgen Melzer and Tommy Robredo are amongst those that use Dunlop equipment.
While all brands that make these stretches should be admired for their ambition, the tactic doesn't guarantee success. The brand stretch graveyard already has a few stones in it and there's certainly room for more.
The brands below are just a few of many that made the wrong leap. When leaving a category, joining another that is linked to it is highly advisable. Caterpillar made construction machinery then moved into construction apparel, whereas Bic went from biros to underwear. See the difference?
Did you know Colgate made ready meals?