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I’m in a dilemma.
Why? Well let me explain.
You see Mont Blanc have decided to go and launch an aftershave. Now on first impressions, I find them doing this very, very wrong … because apart from the fact they’re a bloody pen company, I can’t shake this horrible thought that it probably smells of ink. However on the other side, I also have to sort-of admire them – because at least they’re having a go at trying something new.
So why does this idea still feel like [excuse the pun] a ‘stinker’?
Well the thing is while brands with a demonstrative set of values and/or philosophy can use those attributes to go credibly into almost any area of business [ie: Virgin / Apple / Caterpillar / Honda / Yamaha / cynic / NIKE etc] brands that seem rather one dimensional end up coming across as rather soulless when they launch into new areas.
Yeah … that feeling you get when underneath it all, you feel it’s not being done for the right reasons – it’s more about the cash!
OK so you could argue Mont Blanc does have some values [precision? / quality? / elegance?] but this still feels like an exercise in profit extension rather than credible brand extension.
And yes … I do know there have been some amazing examples of very successful brand extensions that had ‘no reason to succeed’ [Lamborghini used to make Tractors / Nokia used to make Wellington Boots] however I would counter that Lamborghini were so unknown they could simply re-invent themselves without consumer backlash and Nokia were always about ‘connecting people’ … it’s just that it used to be about Farmers in rural Finland whereas now it’s the World by phone. [Plus there's the small matter of spending billions of dollars on advertising to ensure brand understanding - even though now it's more focused on products than brand]
Actually the Lamborghini thing is quite interesting.
You see a while back we had a client who was launching into Vietnam and said our brand idea might be ‘too alternative‘ for them because they were still unknown in the marketplace. They then added that maybe after a few years of being known, they could then embark on something like we were suggesting.
What did we say?
Well we simply commented that given their brand was unknown … and they were in a very low interest category … they could do pretty much whatever they wanted because there was nothing it could be compared to in the minds of the consumer. In essence, they had the very wonderful opportunity to be whoever they wanted to be.
You should of seen the look on their face as they realised the logic to our argument – despite their training telling them the brand had to behave like everyone else within their ‘not-bothered’ category.
Of course they used the argument that their research showed people did care about their product category – but when you looked at the questions asked, you soon realised they were so screwed to ‘client friendly responses’ that they were of no real use at all.
My view is that too often, when you present a new idea, people immediately scream ‘YOU CAN’T’ because ‘being conservative’ is still safer than being pragmatic … however given we live in times of low differentiation and consumer cynicism, I do believe there are certain circumstances where you can counter with ‘WHY NOT?’ … because if a brand has values and a philosophy – or is little known - you can take it pretty much anywhere.
OK … lets get this back on track.
Well the thing is I just feel this brand extension is wrong.
While I am sure they have tons of research to show why this brand can stretch into aftershave, I still feel the real reason is not because of values or philosophy – but because they want to be wherever individuality and status combine.
Surely it can only be a matter of time before they go into areas such as mobile phones, jewellery, clothing … and when they do, I’ll still feel the same way about them as I do now … EXTENSION FOR THE SAKE OF EXTENSION [and profit].
Finally, can someone tell me why ‘aftershave’ is so highly regarded by brands wishing to extend their presence?
I mean, why did Hummer and fucking Play-Doh [I kid you not ... and yes, it DOES smell like the plasticine] think this was a great thing to do?
Maybe I should launch Rob Campbell aftershave – an annoying smell that leaves an even more annoying rash all over your head.
Brand extensions can be a brilliant thing … I mean, Yamaha make motorbikes, pianos, guitars, golf clubs and I have no issue with that … it’s just that when a brand seems to do it for no other reason than personal gain [and aftershave is hardly difficult to manufacture] it doesn’t exactly make me feel more warm towards the brand, quite the opposite actually.
Yeah … I know some people out there will buy it because they can’t afford one of their extortionate pens and this is a more accessible option … but it still feels wrong and if someone could tell me why [on top of the reasons I've written] I’d be very grateful.
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