2 Keys for Successful Brand Extensions

A creative brief hits your desk: Your client or executive team wants to launch a brand extension. In fact, they’re banking on the power of a well-known brand name to move into a new product category. But before you start designing those new packages, there are two key things to consider: fit and leverage. These qualities can make or break any brand extension and give you design insight for those new packages.

Is The New Category a Good Fit?
Whether a brand fits into a new product category is up to consumers. They might love Duracell batteries and even flashlights, but Duracell cameras might not fit into existing perceptions about the brand. In order to be successful, you need to conduct research to see which categories consumers will accept for a brand.

The Better Homes and Gardens brand, for example, is practically synonymous with a warm, cozy home. So consumers willingly accept the brand name on a wide range of home-related products. At Parham Santana, we helped the magazine brand extend to more than 3,600 different products sold exclusively by Walmart. The line ranges from dining room sets and patio furniture to dishes and comforters.

What do all those products have in common? They help consumers participate in the nesting trend that’s become so popular in times of economic uncertainty. A concept we reinforced through the line’s brand promise: “Fall in love with your home all over again.”

Do You Have Any Leverage?
OK, you’ve determined your brand is a good fit for the new category. Now it’s time to think about leverage. Having a great reputation for quality isn’t enough to launch a brand extension. Hundreds of brands enjoy good standing with the public. Consumers need a concrete reason to prefer your brand extension over current offerings. How do you make that happen? Leverage. A brand has leverage when it “owns” one or more distinct qualities that make consumers perceive a brand extension as superior to existing competitive products.

For the Better Homes and Gardens line at Walmart, we leveraged the lifestyle seen in the pages of the magazine and expressed it in packaging, messaging and web assets. These elements highlighted how the brand was different—in color, messaging, product styling and more—than anything else at Walmart at the time.

Consumers purchase a lamp or sheet set because they want to bring the distinct Better Homes look and feel to their own homes. To capitalize on this leverage, we included “Bring the lifestyle home” decorating tips on all packaging and in-store merchandising. Product photography showed items in warm, sunlit home environments. The brand colors—tulip and azalea— distinguished the line from other brands at Walmart and reinforced a warm, emotional connection to the home.



Often, there is an inverse relationship between fit and leverage. Brands that consumers will allow to be on a wide range of products have little leverage (own nothing special). Consumers may think Betty Crocker would be fine on many food products. But if the brand brings nothing more than recognition and a general good feeling, it may have little leverage. In contrast, the Philadelphia brand stands for cream cheese. This limits its extendability, or fit, but it means the brand brings strong leverage to any extension where cream cheese is critical, say cheesecake.

Now back to that creative brief: What kind of fit and leverage does your brand have?

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