strange

August 18, 2009

Travel Extensions, Upmarket and Down

Mobiltravel The Mobil Travel Guide will be rebranded with the Forbes name, effective October 1, the Associated Press reports. Started in 1958, the Mobil series includes 45 books.  The move will certainly add more luxe to a respected name in travel. More here.

Those looking for a more down-to-earth vacation might consider a Samuel Adams Hopfenpflücken Adventure. “This once-in-a-lifetime trip will have you joining Boston Beer Company brewers and execs on a trip to Bavaria, Germany — the birthplace of beer,” says the promotional copy from travel agents at Abercrombie & Kent. What might appear to be a glorified keg run will set you back $2,980.00 (the morning of day 8 is your last chance for a “final beer before your flight home”). More here.

August 07, 2009

Tru Blood, The Beverage

Trueblood Perhaps the last entertainment vehicle you’d imagine extending into retail beverages would be vampire-themed True Blood. That’s not stopping Omni Consumer Products – who achieved a modicum of fame by bringing the world Sex Panther Cologne, based on the movie Anchorman. Coming to your grocer’s in time for Halloween is a carbonated drink called Tru Blood, whose name derives from an elixir drunk on the show when human blood isn’t readily available.

Cleverly labeled with blood type (O positive) and flavor (blood orange), and beautifully packaged in shades of crimson, the drink is meant to be more than a novelty. A New York magazine taste-test gave it a thumbs-up: “Compared to most soft drinks, it's refreshing and not too sweet. It also foams just like real blood.” At $4 for a four-pack, we’ll see whether the public’s thirst will accept no substitutes.

July 24, 2009

Annals of Questionable Brand Extension

Twentiethcenturyfox And you thought that using sheep and cows as billboards was a bit over-the-top.

The latest chapter in the annals of strange brand extension comes from this year’s valedictorian address at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. The Wall Street Journal reports that Ms. Kenya Mejia used her speech as a chance to proclaim her love for a classmate, intoning “I love you, Jake Minor!” The line was a play on the recently released comedy “I love you, Beth Cooper,” wherein a character uses a commencement address for a similar stunt.

The Journal reports that this is only half of the story – the other being a check made out to Ms. Mejia by Twentieth Century Fox consultants for $1,800 for the “viral-marketing” plug. More here. Was Ms. Mejia right to take this branding assignment?

June 01, 2009

Aesthetic Extensions

Lego Lego keeps coming up with clever extensions. Hard on the heels of the Lego camera (covered in a prior post on this blog) comes the Lego Architecture series, featuring all the Lego you’ll need to recreate a Frank Lloyd Wright home or a scale model of the Guggenheim Museum. Rather than a gimmick, the product seems to be truly educational and fun. “Lego Architecture works to inspire future architects, engineers, and designers as well as architecture fans around the world with the Lego brick as a medium,” says the manufacturer.

Meanwhile, you could have visited the actual Guggenheim Museum to attend the world premier of another brand extension. French parfumier Christophe Laudamiel, creator of products for brands like Clinique and Ralph Lauren, commissioned an opera punctuated by 23 scents. The work, entitled Green Aria, will introduce olfactory stimuli to “tell the story of an epic struggle between nature and industry." Laudamiel is both innovative creator and smart businessman, the Wall Street Journal reports. The opera serves to drum up some publicity for his larger business of marketing a "new scent technology to hotels, movie theaters, videogame makers and other entertainment companies that want to pack a bigger sensory punch.” More here.

May 18, 2009

LoJack Now Finds Missing People

Lojack The company whose name became a byword in locating stolen vehicles is now extending into finding people. This February LoJack launched SafetyNet, a service for “tracking and rescuing people at risk of wandering,” including those with Alzheimer’s and autism.

“This offering is a natural extension of LoJack’s family of products and services and takes our solutions beyond ‘getting the bad guys’ off the streets to now protecting those afflicted with cognitive disorders by helping return them safely to their loved ones and caregivers,” said Ronald Walters, LoJack’s CEO.

LoJack SafetyNet consists of a “personal locator beacon” worn by the client, a search-and-rescue receiver for law enforcement, a database about the clients to assist in search and rescue, 24x7 emergency caregiver support and training for law-enforcement and public-safety agencies. LoJack plans to roll out the solution to 200 agencies over the next 12 months. Read more here.

Is this a logical extension for LoJack, or an extension where the brand has little to add? Your thoughts?

May 12, 2009

$6 Million Man Touts $200 Hearing Aid

Leemajors The Web site says it all: “The Lee Majors Rechargeable Bionic Hearing Aid combines digital hearing aid technology with the ultra convenience of a rechargeable battery, so you can enjoy noticeable, digital quality hearing improvement without the hassles of traditional battery-operated hearing aids.”

The hearing aid is available for a one-month trial for $14.95; if you choose to keep it, it’s yours for an additional “three easy payments” of $66.65 (plus $7.95 shipping and handling).

A good or bad brand extension? On the one hand, it is an appropriate use of the word “bionic” (enhancing biological functions through technology); on the other, the device had better give bat-like hearing to humans to merit the moniker of Lee Majors. For the official site, click here.

March 24, 2009

Field of Dreams

Yankees Baseball fans’ fantasy of recreating a corner of Yankee Stadium in their own backyard can now literally become reality. Coming soon to a Home Depot near you are Yankees Sod and Yankees Grass Seed.

The extensions may at first seem like a stretch and divorced from the Yankee brand's core values. But there is a lot more to them than many brand extensions these days. Both products are produced by the family that has been supplying the Yankees with turf for almost 50 years.

David Andres, head of business development at DeLea Sod Farms, came up with the idea of licensing the Yankees’ brand; to exploit the idea, he helped found Stadium Associates to market the products.
Each bit of sod is delivered with a Major League authenticity certificate (“official grass of the New York Yankees”). The dirt doesn’t come cheap – five square feet will set you back $7.50.

For full coverage in the New York Times, click here.

March 16, 2009

The German Touch

Obamafingers While American hucksters wasted no time in cranking out the Obama T-shirts and memorabilia, it took a German company to come up with the questionable idea of marketing Obama-branded fried chicken.

German newsweekly Der Spiegel reports that frozen-foods firm Sprehe wanted to ride the wave of Obama-mania and nothing could appear more natural than chicken fingers (with curry sauce, by the way).

The magazine quotes the firm’s marketing manager, Judith Witting, who remarked that, “It was supposed to be an homage to the American lifestyle and the new US president.” When asked by the magazine whether they might be playing off traditional racial stereotypes, Ms. Witting remarked that the thought had never occurred to her. More here.

March 09, 2009

Don’t Mess With Our Icons!

Barbie Judging from the drubbing experienced by Tropicana’s new packaging, Main Street has limited appetite for radical rebranding in an economic downturn. (Tropicana announced that within weeks it will be bringing back the familiar cartons showing a drinking straw emanating from an orange.)

Just when consumers seem to be clamoring for the comfortable brands of their youth, another American icon is getting a makeover. In honor of the 50th birthday of Barbie, Mattel is trying to breathe new life into the brand with the launch of – we kid you not – “Totally Stylin' Tattoos Barbie.”

Some blogging parents, along with industry brand-watchers, are questioning whether this is the right approach for a dose of fresh vitality. The LA Times quotes Lin Burress, editor of the parenting blog Telling It Like It Is: "It's just one more thing being added to the pile of junk, like push-up bras and Bratz dolls, being marketed to these ridiculously young kids. These so-called toys just create a sense of rebellion."

The Times reminds us that Barbie is no stranger to controversy: Butterfly Art Barbie (vintage 1999) had a butterfly tattoo on her stomach. Sales of the new doll are beating projections, say the toymaker. 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, www.youtube.com/vatican. 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).

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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