Creating a successful brand in the marketplace is very hard work and costs a lot of money. This is particularly true for consumer products where it takes millions of contacts to sell thousands of products. This is also true for the crowded B2B space where building brand awareness is getting tougher with global competitors coming out of the woodwork.

Once the brand is established the obvious question is what now? How do you keep the brand growing? The answer is that marketers have five different strategies for brand growth.

The first is called “line extension” which is when you offer a new product with the same brand name to the same market. An example of this would be the recent announcement by McDonalds to offer a super-sized version of the Big Mac, which is 40 percent larger than the regular Big Mac. This new burger leverages the success of the Big Mac while sticking with the tried and true formula that has made McDonalds so successful.

A second brand growth strategy is called “brand extension” which is the use of an existing brand name in a completely different product class. Harley Davidson has a powerful brand, which describes the benefits of rebellion and machismo for weekend riders (who actually are accountants and attorneys during the week). Harley’s brand extension includes non-motorcycle items such as clothing and collectibles. (Note to self: I need some Harley Davidson leather chaps!)

A third growth strategy for a brand could include “co-branding” which is the use of two brands for one product. Ford Motors partnered with Eddie Bauer to create special edition trucks that utilized the rugged outdoors appeal of the Eddie Bauer clothing line. Another example is the ice cream retailer Baskin-Robbins which sells ice cream with Hershey’s Reese’s Pieces.

A fourth strategy is a “new brand” strategy which leverages the existing brand’s marketing clout. A classic example of a disastrous new brand strategy was Budweiser’s introduction of Eagle Brand snacks. The thinking was that beer drinkers who eat salty snacks will drink more beer. True as that may be, Budweiser did not understand how to market snacks and the effort failed miserably.

Finally, a defensive strategy for brand growth is called a “fighting brand” or “flanker” strategy. This typically is used by firms that have successful brands with large market share to protect. Coca-Cola has a commanding market share, but has had to release numerous flanker brands in response to movement by competitors and to increased segmentation within the cola drinker market. Recent flanker brands include Cherry Coke and Diet Cherry Coke. Of course, cannibalization of the Classic Coke market share is possible in this scenario, but the overall market share for Coca-Cola is protected and grown.

John Bradley Jackson
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