Brand extensions: formula for diluting mother brand

Way back in the late 1970’s, Al Ries and Jack Trout introduced the concept of “positioning”. And one of the precepts they espoused was to stay away from product line extensions because they tend to dilute the mother brand, and often cannibalize it.

But people keep introducing brand extensions, some successful, some not. The latest to come to my attention is a line of body washes, deodorants and soaps exclusively designed for men introduced by Unilever under the Dove label. Yes, Dove products for men. Dove, the brand that has been catering quite successfully and exclusively to women for decades, has now consciously diluted their brand with this extension strategy.

Here’s the Dove Men+Care line.

Note they’ve incorporated the Dove logo, though the typeface is a little different, as well as the famous dove icon. The color palette is masculine, but I’m not sure the features promoted for the line are particularly compelling to men. Here’s their pitch for a body wash:

Dove® Men+Care™ Clean Comfort Body and Face Wash with MICROMOISTURE technology is clinically proven to fight skin dryness better than regular men’s body wash. This ultra-light formula rinses off easily for a refreshing clean and total skin comfort.

Below are soap packages for Men+Care and regular Dove.
Female Dove - Male Dove

I’m just amazed that the people at Unilever would extend a franchise brand based upon a very loyal and dedicated female market into a male-oriented product line. It dilutes the messaging of Dove, including their “Campaign for real beauty” self-esteem program for teenage girls. It also hopes to appeal to men who have heard the Dove story and positioned the brand as exclusively female in their collective mind’s eye.

Now I’m not against doing some line extension as Dove has done from soap to other feminine products like body washes, lotions, deodorants and shampoos. But this new line, well I’m afraid they’ve stepped over the line here.

I would rather they had established a brand new line based on a product exclusive or in some significant way differentiated their product from other male-oriented toiletries. Yes, they did differentiate by adopting the Dove signature, but it’s the wrong differentiation because it’s not relevant or creditable. I’d have advised them to begin from Ground One rather than take a chance on diluting the Dove brand with women and on convincing men that Dove can mean masculine, too.

But they didn’t ask.

7 thoughts on “Brand extensions: formula for diluting mother brand

  1. I was surprised as well when they introduced a men’s line. I tried the deodorant spray–it didn’t hold up as long as other “masculine” brands. The body wash was okay, but it wasn’t “masculine” enough. Looks like they’re targeting a segment that doesn’t like products that are too strong.

  2. Hi Martin,

    I agree with you. Unilever have an extensive range of brands that range from ice cream to, well, under arm deodorant. Dove might be a great name for an ice cream… but Dove toiletries for men?

    When I saw the commercial for the Dove men+Care range on T.V. I was speechless. But other female focused toiletry brands are doing the same, for instance Nivia for Men and Olay for Men have muscled in too.

    Are the fellas softening up these days? I would suggest that deodorant manufactures wanting to target the testosterone territory, seek advice from agencies that manage RV’s and beer brands!

    Just my thoughts…

    Paul Thomas

  3. Talking about the logo of Dove men. I consider that the letters of “Dove” are positioned but look very femenine. If you can see brands like axe, or Rexona, or Gillete are brands more for men. thanks.

  4. The design for the men’s line is very sleek, but yes it’s a bit of a departure for a brand like Dove. Perhaps in a down economy they figure they’d risk a bit of brand equity for some market share.

  5. Hello, It was really surprising at first stance, to see a well recognized feminine brand extended to masculine segment. Its acceptance and extent of success may questionable or uncertain but it might have significant influence in family shopping pattern. Dove has already well positioned in female mind set, so a women on family purchase may go for “Dove” for men also. “Dove” the brand means much more than the product. Is it fair to associate it, only with feminine image too strictly?

  6. I agree. I think it may be a bit of a misstep. Men don’t necessarily think about moisturizing when we buy body products. I think other products on the market do a much better job than Dove does appealing to the male market.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.