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What Is Brand Extension?

Learn more about brand extension and how it compares to line extension.

Learn more about brand extension and how it compares to line extension.

What Is a Brand Extension?

What? A Tide dry cleaner? Why not? In 2010, Proctor & Gamble detergent brand Tide launched the Tide dry cleaning franchise. But this isn't the only place that Tide has made its mark other than the detergent aisle at the grocery store. They've also branched out into laundry accessories such as washing machine bags for delicate items and even a lint roller. These are all prime examples of brand extensions.

So what exactly is a brand extension? And how does it help build a successful brand?

Brand Extension Examples and Definition

Brand extension is a marketing strategy in which a brand name is applied to products, another business, or some other entity that is substantially different from the original. The goals for brand extension can include:

Expanding Sales Opportunities

When a product has become successful, reaches a state of maturity in the product lifecycle, or is typically an infrequent purchase, it may be difficult to squeeze additional sales from the core markets. Other than attempting to expand into new markets, which can be challenging in itself, another way to expand sales is to offer other products and services for existing brand-loyal customers to buy.

Example: Because buying a motorcycle is not a frequent purchase (a one-hit wonder sale), Harley-Davidson branded apparel, parts, and accessories provide additional revenue streams between motorcycle vehicle purchases and create solidarity in the Harley-owning community.

Resurrecting or Revamping a Brand

If a brand has been around for a while—or has even disappeared—from the marketplace, it still may have a high recognition value and positive identification. Applying that brand name to a different related product, service, or business can pump more life into a brand and generate revenues.

Example: Slinky® spring toys have been popular for decades. The brand expanded into the promotional products market with Slinky notepads that have the same appeal as the original Slinky toys.

What Is Line Extension in Marketing?

A line extension is not the same as brand extension, although they are related.

Line extension means that a company is offering a different variety of products within the same product line. Going back to the Tide example, as of this writing, there are 19 versions of Tide liquid detergent, nine powder detergents, plus throw-in-the-washer detergent pods and stain removers. These are simply more products similar to the original one, which is a detergent.

Other examples of line extension include:

  • A line of hair care products that includes shampoo, conditioner, and styling gels. While the products do different things, they are all hair care.
  • A manufacturer of canned vegetables may offer corn, green beans, and peas. While the vegetables are different, they are still all canned vegetables.

Brand Extension vs. Line Extension

Brand extension, as shown in the earlier discussions, involves offering a completely different product, service, or business. Using the examples just discussed, here is how it could become brand extension:

  • The line of hair care products opens up a chain of hair salons.
  • The canned vegetable manufacturer could veer off into offering cookware in which to cook the vegetables. They could also open a chain of restaurants—a bit far-fetched, but a possibility.

How Are Brands Extended?

Anytime a business ventures into a new market or business model, the cost can be extremely high, especially if it is not within its core competencies. Again going back to the Tide example, Proctor & Gamble is a product manufacturer, not a dry cleaning conglomerate. In a Bloomberg Business Week news item, it reported they hired a recognized expert to help launch the franchise.

Brand Extensions Strategies

  • New In-House Department or Division. This is the most expensive way to go. If a company decides to take on the manufacturing or development of a new product, service, or business, it may require significant investment in manufacturing, personnel, property, equipment, marketing, advertising, and much more. Some organizations may have little choice other than to do it themselves due to a variety of reasons, including security, privacy, or quality control issues. Even if done in-house, the company may need to hire outside consultants and legal counsel to guide them through the startup and management of the venture.
  • Franchising. If the business' expertise is not starting and growing business, they can hire franchising experts either on staff or on a consulting basis to help them create an attractive franchise model and support system for franchise investors. This is an area best left to the experts!
  • Licensing. Instead of manufacturing or offering a service themselves, a business may choose to license its business or brand name to another organization that already offers a desired product or service. The licensor receives a fee or a share of the revenue for the use of the brand name. Again, because of the myriad of legalities involved, it's best to consult legal and licensing professionals to assist.
  • White Label Goods. A slight variation on the licensing arrangement, particularly in the retail arena, is the purchase of blank or "white label" goods on which an organization puts its brand. Another variation in this strategy would be to partner with an existing, popular brand to bolster acceptance in the market. An example of this would be the NFL team names that are placed on popular athletic brand sportswear, such as Nike. In this second variation, both brands are marketed together on the same product. As with all other types of brand extension strategies, white-label or dual brand agreements require professional marketing and legal advice.

When to Choose Brand Extension

While brand extension can be done at any time during a product's lifecycle, it is typically done after the brand has developed a positive image and following over time. The extension serves to leverage the organization's existing goodwill and identity for greater sales opportunities and public relations benefits.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 24, 2014:

Hi FlourishAnyway! Yes, the two terms are a bit confusing and sometimes used interchangeably and incorrectly. I LOVE those Slinky notepads, too. Have a lovely week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 24, 2014:

Hi Victoria Lynn! Lots of people don't realize brand extension is a specific marketing strategy. Glad you found the explanation helpful. Have a wonderful week!

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 24, 2014:

Your explanation of line vs. brand extension was especially helpful. Well done hub and video! I like that slinky notepad, too.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on March 23, 2014:

Great explanation. I didn't realize there was an official term, either!!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 23, 2014:

Hello, mylindaelliott! Yep, there's an official term and strategy for it. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a lovely Sunday!

mylindaelliott from Louisiana on March 22, 2014:

I knew companies were doing those things. I didn't realize there was official terminology for it.