Brand confusions, not extensions

An interesting looking article in the email from Strategy+Business: A Better Choosing Experience. As I’m still writing my Medinge piece on Branding and Complexity, it resonates strongly – I’ve been saying something similar for a few years now.

In essence, one way that people talk about a “brand” is as a shortcut to a decision. (Simon Anholt’s phrase, if I recall correctly.) From that perspective, however, brand extensions work directly against the premise – if I want a chocolate bar for a snack, I’m often considering a Twix or a KitKat. (Just the right amount of biscuity crunch, as opposed to a Mars Bar or, God forbid, a Milky Way.) Twix or KitKat – a quick and simple decision depending on how I’m feeling in the moment.

But with extensions, I’m in much more confusing territory. I now have to consider KitKat Chunky, KitKat Dark chocolate, Twix Extra big, Twix light… Oh sod it, I’ll have a Lion bar.

Extensions make sense if you think it’s a way of taking your brand and making it more available to those poor folk who haven’t bought from you before because you didn’t offer a Chunky/Dark/Light version. Or of creating more opportunities for your loyal customers to give you more revenue by buying more varieties of your product. But that’s only from the viewpoint of increasing revenue – and can run the risk of reducing it.

So what product extensions/service products should you not be offering?