Tag Archives: brand strategy

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.

Brand vs Bland

Branding can be game-changing for a corporation.

Several years ago I bashed UPS for their “What Can Brown Do for You?” campaign. I thought it was vacuous and certainly did not position UPS in the field of FedEx and DHL. What’s more, just like the color, the slogan and the idea behind it were bland. Except for voicing the color there was no differentiation, no relevancy, no idea expressed.
UPS logo

But how things have changed at UPS. Their current campaign, “It’s Logistics” is 100-percent better and on target. They have found a differentiator, a word upon which they are positioning themselves as more than a fast, reliable delivery service. I’d go so far as to say this was the absolute best branding strategy exhibited this past year.

The idea that UPS now owns the word “logistics”, and that it is a function admired and wished to be attained by the corporate world, makes their messaging most compelling to their markets. I’ll bet they’ve found the board room doors open to UPS reps since the campaign began.

UPS is growing strong

But like all great branding victories, I’ll bet this one began by UPS looking at their business – their corporate aspirations, their strengths, their assets and their culture – and developing a strategic plan to make logistics an overriding feature of their services. If need be, they changed the way they were delivering their services (both literally and figuratively). Only then would UPS enjoy the benefit of messaging about their differentiator.

Substance, not sizzle. Relevancy not ruffles.

That’s branding based on corporate strategy and corporate willingness to be customer oriented. It’s what makes brands strong and long lived.