Stretching Your Brand's Elasticity

Extending your brand into a related category can add to your core consumer base and create incremental revenue. But there are risks. by bob swientek

Extending your brand into a new market segment is an attractive prospect. Here are some of the advantages:
  • Leveraging the established brand to launch a new product or line is less expensive than building a brand from scratch. Brand extensions also may be less risky.
  • Retailers may be more willing to give shelf space to an established brand vs. an upstart brand.
  • Brand extensions have a "built-in" audience, drawing consumers from the base or core brand. They also attract new consumers to your brand franchise.
  • The brand extension capitalizes on the base brand's equity. The extension exploits the consumer awareness and goodwill established after years of investing in advertising, promotion and product performance.
  • The extension keeps the brand relevant and contemporary. It taps emerging market opportunities and delivers long-term business growth.
But brand extensions are not without risk. A misguided extension means failure not only for itself but it could harm the core brand irreparably.
If you're contemplating a brand extension, "you have to have a strong brand model and an equally strong understanding of the market needs your brand answers. Very simply, if you don't know who you are, you will never know who you can be," says Chris Bailey, President of Bailey Design Group.
Asking the tough questions
Bailey recommends that you ask yourself some tough questions:
  • Does the proposed extension fit your franchise? Does it meet your standards and align with your profile?
  • What purpose will the new extension serve? Is it part of an offensive strategy to tackle new markets, or is it a defensive strategy in response to competitive threats?
  • What is the possible net effect of the extension? Could the new product cannibalize sales of your existing offerings? Would retailers be likely to replace a lower-performing member of your franchise with the new extension?
  • Finally, can your budget adequately support a brand extension? You'll have to cover the costs of additional marketing and advertising, as well as getting your sales force up-to-speed.
A successful brand extension starts with research. Evaluate and understand your brand's current positioning, core values and consumer equity.
"Consumers purchase based on the personal identity they want to attain or convey. Packaging structure and graphics must support that identity—and that's equally true for foundational and extension brands," Bailey says. "As a result, brand equity must be the number-one guiding force in designing packaging for a brand extension."
Equity elements in packaging
Before you design packaging for an extension, you must know which of your graphical and structural elements have brand equity—and which do not, Bailey says.
"For some brands, there may be tremendous equity in a particular color or a certain product shape. Think L'eggs pantyhose container, Log Cabin syrup bottle and the Coca-Cola bottle.
"That equity must be captured when packaging the extension product. On the other hand, elements such as typography may have less equity, giving you more design flexibility," Bailey says.
Your package redesign may depend on how close you want to position the extension to the brand's father/mother, says Ronald de Vlam, President of Webb Scarlett.
"With the Samuel Adams Light extension, we ensured a 'cousin' relationship by changing the brand to Sam Adams and using a silver background on the label, clearly differentiating it from Boston Lager.
"However, in order to communicate the brand's quality credentials, we hinted at the patriot—the brand's icon—and used a very similar brand architecture, the same label shape and the same bottle. This ensured the family resemblance that 'Light' needed to be successful," de Vlam says.
Webb Scarlett also designed the structural packaging for Olay's Regenerist skin-care line.
Designing the Regenerist packaging presented two distinct challenges:
1. Build on the Olay brand equity as a whole: feminine but contemporary packaging that worked with the brand's newest packaging structures to build shape equity.
2. Support the anti-aging product benefits of the Regenerist line, setting it apart from other Olay skin-care products such as Total Effects.
Combining ergonomics and efficacy
"The serum product was the hero of the Regenerist lineup, which gave Webb Scarlett an opportunity to put ergonomics and efficacy at the top of the list, knowing that the delicate size of the bottle would help to ensure the femininity and the precious and valuable nature of the product," says Heidi Hollmann, Webb Scarlett's 3D Design Director, NA.
Where to go for more information...
* Package design services. At Bailey Design Group, contact Chris Bailey at 610.940.9030 or
* Structural packaging design. At Webb Scarlett, contact Ronald de Vlam at 312.575.0700 or
* Viscous liquid pumps. At Rexam Dispensing Systems, contact Hervé Bichon at 914.251.8420 or
* Rigid plastic sleeve packaging. At AGI/Klearfold, contact Pat McGee at 215.918.3023 or
* Brand design services. At Smith Design, contact Martha Seidner Gelber at 973.429.2177 or
The bottle's crisp lines and broad shoulders give the package a
professional, no-nonsense confidence, while being easy to hold and dispense.
This allows women, standing very close to a mirror, to concentrate on their face in the reflection, not the package in their hand.
"The viscosity of the cream formula demanded a positive displacement or airless pump, so we concentrated on designing an actuator that would help to
explain the new method for one-handed dispensing—press down with two fingers and swipe off,"Hollmann says.
Olay selected a matte finish for the translucent bottles and pumps. This communicates a premium and elegant image.
Rexam Dispensing Systems supplies the pump, designed for high-viscosity products. The pump's mechanics allow the user to control the dosage gently and consistently.
The secondary packaging, a printed plastic sleeve with injection-molded end caps from AGI/Klearfold, expands the small bottle's shelf presence and creates a unique packaging platform.
The elliptical-shaped sleeve, printed in 11 colors with layered graphics, differentiates the Regenerist line in the skin-care aisle, where six-sided cartons dominate.
In search of new markets
Like Olay, most brand extensions move into a related product category. For Sika Corp., the extension was into a new sales channel.
Sika manufactures construction chemicals for the commercial market. Several years ago, Home Depot noticed that many Sika products were specified in the construction of its new buildings. But it wasn't selling these Sika items in its stores.
Home Depot approached Sika to develop a retail line of products—epoxies, concrete repair materials and sealants and adhesives—to sell at its home improvement centers.
Sika called on Smith Design to create the package design and turn "commercial products into retail-friendly brands." "In terms of image, creating recognition for the Sika brand and building trust at the consumer level was key," says James C. Smith, Partner at Smith Design.
To professionals, Sika's line is very well known. Small contractors also shop Home Depot and other retail channels. Therefore, some users already knew the Sika brand. "Our objective was to build on that," Smith says.
Smith created a sub-brand, called Contractors' Choice, that leverages the equity in the commercial line.
The design firm also built upon the visual equities of Sika's professional line. "For Contractors' Choice, we maintained a strong golden-yellow background, the red Sika triangle logo and the red sash for the product name," Smith says.
Smith added the "Contractors' Choice" sub-brand name, using a "sturdy, rugged" type treatment that fits the brand personality.
Most packages carry illustrations that make the products more user-friendly for consumers, says Michael Winge, Sika's Product Marketing Manager.
"For consumers, the packaging graphics need to be much more intuitive," Smith says.

Sika's retail line leverages the yellow-and-red color scheme of the professional line. But the two package designs are different. That's important, Winge says, because "we did not want to confuse the retail line with our commercial products and upset our customers." BP

The author, Bob Swientek,is the Editor-in-Chief of BRANDPACKAGING magazine.

Extending your brand through structural packaging

When designing a brand extension’s packaging, you should leverage the equity elements of the existing brand.

The author, Bob Swientek, is the Editor-in-Chief of BRANDPACKAGING magazine.Extending your brand through structural packaging When designing a brand extension's packaging, you should leverage the equity elements of the existing brand.

Ask yourself, "What are the predominant traits that physically define the product family?"

Consider structural shapes, features, color palette, finishes and the graphic identity. Each element supports brand communication.
The goal is to establish a new brand extension while retaining a visual link to the brand collective. It is not an easy trick to achieve a differentiated design while remaining relevant to the brand, the category and the consumer.
If designers choose to abandon equity elements, they run the risk of being irrelevant and may alienate consumers.
In the liquid dish soap category, for example, there exists an established common visual language, communicated via a feminine skirt-torso profile and a conventional closure.
Sunlight dish soap stretched beyond its brand elasticity when it chose to utilize a squat, cylindrical bottle with a pump instead of a closure. Its brand-stretch goal was to go after the added consumption associated with hand washing. But the result was category confusion.
A successful structural extension supports the brand communication that there is a "reason to believe" that there's something different about this product versus the rest of the family. You can achieve this most dramatically by altering the shape and proportion of the package.
Dawn Complete's bottle structure supports the communication that the product inside is best for cleaning, and best for your hands.
The contemporary bottle profile, although distinctive from the common category silhouette, still resembles the brand with its characteristic handgrip and brand-owned closure.
The author, Peter Clarke, is President of Product Ventures Ltd., a strategic designand development group.Contact him at 203.319.1119 or

Taking a service brand into the retail aisle How do you package a national icon?


That was the challenge faced by Changing Paradigms when it licensed the Roto-Rooter brand for a retail line of drain-cleaning products. To help create packaging for the line, Changing Paradigms called on Ionic Communications Group. "Our strategy was to capitalize on Roto-Rooter's exceptional brand recognition and equity by integrating a unique, memorable structure with compelling graphics," says Philip Volk, Ionic's Managing Partner.

A review of the product category showed packaging with the same basic shapes and proportions. To significantly differentiate the brand on the store shelf, Ionic collaborated with One80 Design to create a distinct package. The high-density polyethylene bottle, made by Silgan Plastics, incorporates a "drainpipe with elbow" design. "The aesthetics of the structural package are immediately recognized and associated with the usage occasion to clearly communicate the end benefit to consumers," says Jim Warner, Managing Director at One80 Design.

This iconic shape says "under the sink." A compression-molded "medallion" above the "elbow" contains an embossed message. A tube, running through the medallion at a 45-degree angle, acts an air vent. This prevents "glugging" during pouring. Part of the drainpipe design becomes the handle for carrying and pouring. Finger grips on the handle provide two benefits. They help grasp the bottle and provide the illusion of free-flowing liquid. An image of a clean, clog-free drainpipe on the front label reinforces the structural design. Ionic chose a gray-metallic color for the label's background to signal "industrial, toughness and strength," Volk says.

A book-style, extended-content label on the back of the bottle includes usage directions and a coupon offering a 10 percent discount for the professional plumbing service. Where to go for more information... u Package design services. At Ionic Communications Group, contact Philip Volk at 513.281.7800 or u Structural packaging design.

At One80 Design, contact Jim Warner at 212.268.1801, ext. 22 or u Labeling services.

At WS Packaging, contact Todd Ostendorf at 920.487.6291 or u Custom HDPE bottles. At Silgan Plastics Corp., contact Matt Dudas at 770.243.5280 or

Five telltale signs you've overextended your brand

Extendinga brand always involves risk. There's a risk of overextending—moving too far from the foundational brand and creating a fuzzy overall image," says Chris Bailey, President of Bailey Design Group.
How do you know if you've gone too far? Here are five telltale signs that you've stretched the brand beyond its boundaries.
1. Research shows that your brand has lost that "special place" in your core consumers' conscience. Consumers question who you are and what you represent.
2. Rather than growing your brand franchise, your extension cannibalizes sales of the core brand. The net effect is little or no incremental revenues.
3. Sales of the brand extension are poor or below expectations. Although this is an obvious sign, don't rely on it as a first indicator of trouble.
4. Your overall brand franchise loses equity and sales as a result of a flawed extension.
5. Each brand extension seems logical. But over time, the number of SKUs becomes enormous. Ask yourself if you really need "50 different varieties of toothpaste," for example. Your retailers may also pose that question.SEALING THE BOND
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Enhancing Convenience, Freshness
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Savvy consumers know that a resealable zipper can turn a simple package into a reusable storage container, keeping products fresh and securely contained.

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Building the Brand
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Selecting a Resealable Packaging Supplier
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