July 09, 2009

Academic Brand Extensions

Un_university The United Nations recently launched what they claim to be the world’s first tuition-free online university. Dubbed University of the People, the site aims to bring education to the masses. Shai Reshef, head of the venture, has ambitions of giving free textbooks, e-learning, and peer-to-peer teaching to hundreds of millions of people with no access to conventional teaching methods. According to the UN, students will be placed in classes of 20, after which they can log on to a weekly lecture, discuss it with their peers, and take tests online. Volunteer professors, graduate students, and students in other classes offer additional training. Visit the University of the People here.

Jackwelch Those with perhaps a less overtly altruistic bent might consider another educational brand extension – the Jack Welch online MBA. The Jack Welch Management Institute is slated to begin classes this autumn, with an MBA running a mere $20,000 (versus some $100,000 the old-fashioned way). "We think it will make the MBA more accessible to those who are hungry to play," Businessweek quotes Welch as saying. "And they can keep their job while doing it." More here.

February 05, 2009

Back to School for Celebs

Bhhs It's unlikely that your local high school will make millions of dollars in licensing revenue this year. Unless, of course, your local high school is in the 90210 zip code. Beverly Hills High School is reportedly looking at a deal to license the school's brand on apparel, cosmetics, and accessories.

The licensing deal could bring the school district $500,000 a year in royalties, and perhaps much more if famous alumni including Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Cage, and Richard Dreyfuss get involved.

But the news from Hollywood is not all good. In an article this week, AdAge proclaims, "Bad news celebs: the era of simply slapping your name on your own fashion brand and waiting for royalties to roll in is over." They go on to report that the collapse of retailers such as Goody's and Steve & Barry's has also led to the demise of celebrity apparel brands from Ashley Judd, Sarah Jessica Parker, Amanda Bynes and Venus Williams. More here.

January 27, 2009

Would You Buy a Watch From This Man?

Yalem A high-tech Swiss chronometer has just been launched – dubbed the "Aviator," it will cost from between $10,000 and $25,000, depending on whether you get the stainless steel or gold version. No ordinary timepiece, the Aviator is specifically meant for pilots, with features that assist in the case of instrumentation failure (it claims to be the first watch that calculates true airspeed, apparently something useful to know).

Why the inclusion in this blog, you ask? The chronometer’s inventor and marketer is the half brother of Osama bin Laden, a name best kept far from the cockpit and associated goods and services. Interviewed by Reuters, Yeslam Bin Ladin downplayed possible linkage between his lineage and market suitability: "I think that over time people have realized that these two things are completely unrelated. It has been many years (that) I have had nothing to do with it and I continue to carry on my life as normal." He is already in the business of selling perfume and handbags under the Yeslam label from his upscale store in Geneva, Switzerland. More here.

In a (very) separate development, the Vatican announced its launch of a new YouTube channel, Pope Benedict XVI, in his weekly blessing, said the use of new technologies could aid in the search for "the true, the good, and the beautiful." This extension of the Vatican brand ranks as downright mainstream compared with some of the Vatican Library's prior licensing efforts, which include collectibles, giftware, apparel, funeral urns, and jewelry (for previous coverage in this blog, click here).

December 28, 2008

The Results Are In...

2008survey What do Burger King underwear, Kellogg's hip-hop street wear and Allstate Green insurance have in common? They all were voted among the worst brand extensions of 2008. Earlier this month, TippingSprung polled 689 Brandweek readers and other marketing professionals, online, about this year's flurry of brand extensions. Among others voted thumbs-down: Coca-Cola's RPet clothing at Wal-Mart, Playboy energy drink and Disney Sleeping Beauty executive fountain pens priced at up to $1,200, particularly ill-timed in this economy.

Accentuating the positive, Campbell's V8 Soup was selected the top beverage extension. Nearly 77 percent of marketers said it was a good idea. Coppertone sunglasses and Mr. Clean performance car washes were named the best brand extensions, according to 31.2 percent and 25.7 percent of respondents, respectively.

For Ken Hein’s full coverage in Brandweek, click here. To receive a full survey report (available in the first half of January 2009), email us.

This is TippingSprung's fifth annual brand-extension survey conducted with Brandweek. Past winners include Iams pet health insurance and Huggies Little Swimmers sunscreen; past losers include Precious Moments coffins, Hooters airlines, Cheetos lip balm and Salvador Dalí deodorant (yes, these are/were all real products). Feel free to write us for past results as well.

November 28, 2008

National Geographic: The Store

NationalgeographicThose daring to shop this season who happen to be in London may enjoy visiting the new National Geographic store, the first of its kind. The 20,000-square-foot outlet seems the perfect extension of this venerable brand. Products range from locally sourced collectables to items designed for the "rigors of adventure and exploration." The Guardian reports that visitors can road-test products in special high-wind and temperature chambers.

The shop is dedicated to "stimulating, educating and inspiring visitors to celebrate global cultures." It will include a rotating series of curated exhibits, artwork from the magazine, and a café serving tapas and other slow food. More here.

Also featured is the Genographic Project, a program cosponsored by IBM which will collect and analyze 100,000 DNA samples from indigenous peoples around the world. You can pick up a kit at the shop for $100 and receive a confidential analysis on how your own genes reflect broader patterns in the population. Read more on the Genographic Project here.

October 29, 2008

Bringing an Apple to School

YaleIn past entries, we’ve talked about brands extending through education -– including McDonald’s Hamburger U, Sephora University, and the BMW Driving School.

Apple has just raised the bar on corporate training, by naming the dean of Yale’s school of management as an Apple vice president and dean of Apple University. Joel Podolny, credited with revamping the Yale business-school curriculum and improving the institution’s standing, recently announced his imminent departure for Cupertino.

The Yale Daily News reported that Apple insiders, speaking off the record, expected Podolny to focus on executive education.

Podolny is known for his interdisciplinary approach, which Apple apparently sees as the wave of the future for leading business thinkers. The investment seems like a move to the head of the class for Apple. Read more here. For past coverage on companies extending their brands through smart training programs, click here.

October 21, 2008

There Will Be Blood

SawIn what must rank as one of the strangest –- and most beneficial -- brand marriages of all time, The American Red Cross is once again partnering this Halloween with Lion’s Gate, makers of the Saw films. This marks their fifth annual Halloween Blood Drive, timed to coincide with the release of Saw V.

The 2007 Saw drive managed to collect 41,000 points of blood, with the claimed potential to save 123,000 lives. The event featured the tagline "Give til it hurts." Those donating blood will also get two dollars off their movie ticket.

A blogger for the Red Cross raves about the partnership, disappointed only that it won’t be promoted in her region (more here). A clever partnership, or one in questionable taste? See the official promotion here.

October 15, 2008

Mass-Market Boutique

WorldofgoodeBay has just launched – "the world’s first online marketplace to convene thousands of People Positive and Eco Positive sellers and products all in one place, empowering you to shop in ways that align with your personal values."

The venture is a partnership with World of Good, Inc., an organization founded in 2004 with the goal of building bridges between "thousands of marginalized artisans around the world" and consumers looking for socially responsible products. In addition to the eBay partnership, World of Good has longstanding relationships with Whole Foods, Borders, and Wegmans. seems like a remarkably clever brand extension to us – it has a fresh interface, completely distinct from that of eBay, yet it leverages all of that organization’s buying power and technical know-how. All listings are also available on, thus bringing many artisanal products onto the screens of eBay’s 84 million active users worldwide. includes a number of distinctive features, including Trustology – a series of seals from "Trust Providers" that are used to validate the environmental or social claims of the products – and Goodprint, a tool that lets users find products and suppliers that match their interests and values. Visit

September 10, 2008

Wrap Yourself in the Flag

FirstinfantryThe US Army, the First Infantry Division to be precise, has licensed its insignias for the first time, allowing them to appear on a new sort of runway. Thanks to a licensing deal with Sears, the division's "big red one" logo debuted on a line of military-inspired apparel at New York's Fashion Week, and will appear in stores in October. A US Army spokesperson, quoted in AdAge, speaks like a true branding professional: "By incorporating the Army's timeless traditions with iconic styling and unparalleled standards for performance, fit and function, consumers can wear the pride they feel for our troops." Response from veterans' groups was not slow in coming. CBS ran a story on Vietnam vets who felt the extension was decidedly off-brand. "That's a dishonor to do that," said one of them. "The Army has no right to make extra money with Sears."

Meanwhile, the branding pundits wasted no time in joining the fray around the US presidential election. John Quelch, a professor at Harvard Business School, called Sarah Palin "a very good brand extension, one that complements the core propositions of the master brand while extending it to a new audience." Meanwhile, he calls Biden "a defensive line extension." Read more here. Anyone with other thoughts on the brands running in this election?

And if you're still not sure which horse to back this election, you could do a lot worse than Hermes' new $490 plush horse toy. More here.

September 03, 2008

The Hallowed Halls of General Hospital

CambridgeCambridge University, former home to Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren, has decided it needs more of the common touch, and seeks to extend its brand in unconventional places. According to the Associated Press, Cambridge has approached producers of the soap operas EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale, in the hopes of including the university in the plot.

Lest you think Cambridge is trying to cash in on its 800 years of brand equity through a lucrative licensing deal, the real motivation seems to be the desire to attract students of more diverse backgrounds. "We're very keen to attract the brightest and best students regardless of their background," the AP quotes Cambridge spokesperson George Hayman. "One of the better ways of communicating directly with potential students is to talk to them through the soaps and other programs they watch." (The rather condescending implication seeming to be that the great families of Cambridge don’t park themselves in front of the tele watching soaps.)

And while Harvard seems happy with the memory of Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal wandering its quadrangles, Cambridge has also petitioned "Doctor Who" to choose the university for the show’s backdrop. More here.

About This Blog

Brand extensions are all around us — clothing from the Sierra Club, furniture polish from Steinway and, yes, even the kitchen sink from Jacuzzi. TippingSprung, a New York-based brand-extension consultancy, publishes an annual survey on brand extensions with Brandweek. If you spot a noteworthy extension for the blog or survey, email us.



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