Loss Of Focus And Line Extension

Jack TroutJuly 14, 20092 min

Loss of focus is really all about line extension. And no issue in marketing is so controversial. Companies look at the brands from an economic point of view.

To gain cost efficiencies and trade acceptance, they are quite willing to turn a highly focused brand, and one that stands for a certain type of product or idea, into an unfocused brand that represents two or more types of products or ideas.

Look at the issue of line extension from the point of view of the mind. The more variations you attach to the brand, the more the mind loses focus. Gradually, a well-differentiated brand like Chevrolet comes to mean nothing at all. Scott, the leading brand of toilet tissue, line extended its name into Scotties, Scottkins, and Scott Towels. Pretty soon writing ‘‘Scott’’ on a shopping list meant very little and Charmin took over the lead.

Some Surprising Research

With about 70 percent of new products being launched with existing brand names, you would think these companies would have some supporting data on the pluses of line extension. The opposite is true.

The Journal of Consumer Marketing noted a large-scale study of 115 new-product launches across five U.S. and U.K. markets. The study compared the market share gained by products launched under established family or corporate brand names with market share gained by products launched under new brand names.

Share was measured two years after each brand’s launch. The brand extension products performed significantly less well than the products launched with new brand names.

The Harvard Business Review published a study on line extension. Their observations were that, among other things, line extension weakened a brand’s image and disturbed trade relations.

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