Brand extension or extension of trust?

trust is a paper
Creative Commons License photo credit: birgerking

Over the summer, I’ve seen a few things that have got me to thinking about businesses, their brands, relationships with existing and new customers and how they grow their business.

The thing that interested me was how smaller or alternative ‘businesses’ are getting into brand extension. And, I found myself asking why?

First up, let me say that when I say ‘business’ I mean any person or group of people that are undertaking an activity for love, (com)passion or money.

First up there is Elbow, the band, who are turning their hand to releasing a beer of their own:

Second are the music bloggers that are now starting their own music labels:

There’s lots of other historic examples of brand extensions like

  • Virgin getting into everything from financial services to gyms to mobile phones;
  • The group that went from air travel to bus travel to hotels and holidays to cinemas and internet cafes; and
  • Tescos that has gone from supermarket shopping into catalogue shopping, banking, mobile phones and even into selling cars.

All of which seem to work (or not) to varying degrees.

But, what seems clear and typified by the comments in this article:

and the other articles listed is that extending your brand or business can be a tricky business, will excite lots of differing opinions and offer no guarantee of success.

Brand extension can help you grow and develop relationships with both new and existing customers but doing so can tread the fine line between building or damaging the trust that you have with your customers.

Overall, I believe that:

  • The music bloggers venture into the sourcing and production of new music could work very well as it leverages their existing authority in that space;
  • Aston Martin’s Cygnet may work as sales are limited to their existing customers only and, so, retains an element of exclusivity and goes towards delivering on some of their customers’ concerns about driving their Astons into city areas;
  • But, as for Elbow’s venture into beer? I know they are a bunch of Northern lads that like their beer. But this one I’m not sure about. This could be a step too far and a personal indulgence that could have consequences for them and the trust of their fanbase.

What do you think?

6 comments On Brand extension or extension of trust?

  • Interesting post, Adrian

    I think that many small businesses expand and even migrate their service and product portfolio as a form of natural adaption, listening to what customers tell them, what they ask for, and by recognizing space where they can deliver new services and make profit. All very Darwinian.

    I suppose there are some firms that come to see their brand AS their differentiator and therefore move into different types of products or services with the belief that the brand name itself will sell the product/service. OK if you are Richard Branson and can leverage the Virgin brand name. For others it’s somewhere on that fine line between vision and hallucination!


    • Hi Marc,
      I agree that smaller businesses do this better than larger ones given their closer relations with their customers.

      But, I also agree that the difference between success whether large or small business can be the difference between vision and hallucination, like you say. There are many examples of hallucination out there including Colgate’s venture into ready meals and Bic’s venture in ‘gummy bear’ type sweets.

      Mustn’t forget not to drink our own kool-aid!


  • New blog post: Brand extension or extension of trust? From bands to beer and back again. What do you think?

  • New blog post: Brand extension or extension of trust? From bands to beer and back again. What do you think?

  • Extension of trust, brand extension, greed or delusion?

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