Business Alicia Marchal  

3 Ridiculous Examples Of Brand Extension Failures

Unfortunately, no one told Colgate that. So back in the 80s, the brand that was built upon a product you’re supposed to spit out decided that there was a gap in the frozen food market – one that only this dental hygiene goliath could fill. And so it did. Was it a resounding success? No, not in the slightest. It was, however, exceedingly successful in showing us how not to embark on a brand extension journey. There are many examples of brand extension failures such as this, where the idea of an ‘extension’ was replaced with a complete 360. In this case, consumers were repelled by the mixed messaging of minty fresh Colgate and warm, savoury meat products.

However, I do feel a smidgen of sympathy for this misguided venture. After countless encounters with brands across the globe, we at Real Business have seen that staying relevant in today’s world of feverish innovation and fierce competition is difficult. The modern human condition seems to leave consumers always seeking more. You’re nothing if not the next best thing. When it comes to the world’s titans, you may think that established, beloved brands such as these would have no problem creating new and sensational products. Well, you’d be wrong. Unfortunately for them, and thankfully for us, there are several examples of famous brand extension failures that will leave your eyebrows raised and stomach in stitches. Let’s dive in!

1 Cadbury’s Instant Mash Potatoes

In the 1970s, high-end chocolate and sweets manufacturer, Cadbury’s, decided that their sweet-toothed customers would swoon over an instant, savoury canned food product. And so Cadbury’s instant mashed potatoes brand, Smash, was born. Surprisingly, Smash did make it into the mainstream market successfully. However, this was at the expense of their original products’ perceived value and quality. By associating cheap, instant, low-end mashed potatoes with premium chocolates and sweets, Cadbury’s effectively weakened the link to fine confectionaries in their customers’ minds. This brand extension failure led to them selling Smash in 1986.

2 Zippo Perfume

Now, we all know someone whose huffed lighter fluid. Or maybe that’s just me. But, aside from seeking a brain-cell-obliterating high, it’s doubtful that this tendency to huff could ever be turned into a desire to sniff. And yet, lighter and lighter fluid brand, Zippo, thought that their association with fire and butane would be a fine foundation to launch a perfume. Zippo’s “The Woman” offered high promises to “Light Your Power” through floral, fruity, woody, and citrusy scents. However, it only succeeded in lighting their way to failure. The contrast between fruity fragrances and an edgy lighter brand was too confusing and entirely unappealing. Essentially, few women were keen on the idea of having to answer the question of “what scent are you wearing?” with “Zippo.”

3 Harley-Davidson Wine Coolers

At Real Business, we found two reasons why this example of a misguided brand extension was a complete failure. Firstly, associating an internationally recognised motorcycle brand with an alcoholic beverage was a doomed endeavour from the start. Why? The answer lies in one, just as well-known statement – don’t drink and drive! Sure, Harley-Davidson was likely not encouraging their followers to drink while driving. However, the idea that they are marketing both alcohol and motorcycles to their cult-like fanbase leaves one feeling uneasy. With thousands upon thousands of people dying from drinking and driving every year, and just as many mothers left heartbroken and angry, the association is insensitive at best and deadly at worst.

Secondly, if motor-vehicle-branded alcoholic beverages were a good, reasonable idea, would wine coolers be the best choice for a tough, masculine, bike-obsessed audience? That’s not to discount the multitude of Harley-crazy women, but even then, their desired aesthetic is also that rugged, edgy hog-lover look. Simply put, white wine coolers were never going to resonate with their customers – and probably never should.

And there you have it, brand extension failures that are not only hilarious, but stellar examples of how not to expand your business. For more business insights and analyses, visit Real Business to explore, grow, learn, and, in cases like these, laugh!

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