Brand focus ~ Brand Mix

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Brand focus

I'm all about brands have strong focus: A clear and differentiated positioning that says as much about what a brand should not do as what it should.

But recently I was invited to play devil's advocate by a colleague who was writing a story with just that message. His argument - many brands have lost their way by adding line extensions that blur what the brand stands for. Some of his examples: Listerine that used to be "the taste you hate, twice a day" and then launched good-tasting mouthwash and Coca-Cola that, with all its extensions, is now a many-thing cola instead of the "real thing". "If a brand tries to become everything to everyone, it starts losing focus and projects a confusing scenario. This confusion will dilute the brand in the long term", he wrote.

Couldn't agree more. But what about growth? What about leveraging brand equity once it's acquired? When can existing brands be used to explore new business opportunities?

As we discussed this other side of the argument, we thought of brands like Nivea and Apple that have done well - have found ways to grow the topline and extend their range but have stayed true to a core idea. We also thought of companies that have chosen to limit how far they want to take their brands and decided to launch new brands to cover new market opportunities (One example: Toyota with its Lexus and Scion brands targeting specific market segments).

Our more nuanced conclusion: "It's easy to be differentiated and have focus if you stay niche. What is difficult is to grow and stay differentiated"

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