Posted by: kwbrand | August 1, 2011

Brand Extension: How to Stretch

I had the idea for this post as I prepared to go to a hot yoga class this afternoon. “Hot yoga” for those who haven’t heard is basically regular, crazy, stretchy yoga enhanced by humid heat piped into the studio by those sadistic yoga teachers (just kidding, they’re lovely). The theory is that the heat helps loosen the joints and enhances the stretch.

I only wish this was me

It might have been during an inversion pose when the thought of brand extensions came back to me. The thought had actually started the night before when my husband noted that our pretty new salt and pepper grinders were made by Peugeot—yep, you got it; the French brand of cars. We’d laughed about it. Can you imagine the boardroom scene when that little nugget of an idea was proposed? “Okay, mes amis, we need to leverage the Peugeot brand into new areas. Ideas? What makes the most sense? Let’s see, we French do love to eat, how about salt and pepper grinders!? Magnifique!”

Unlike Honda which has successfully taken its core brand attribute of reliably engineered engines into other product areas, Peugeot’s grinders can’t be a good brand move. What’s the message they’re sending? That their core strength is in gears that grind? machinery that crushes bigger things into dust? No, no; pas bon.

On the other hand, I love Kaiser Permanente’s branding decisions. They’ve successfully warmed up the notion of managed care which, as a concept, typically makes me chafe so this is a real accomplishment. Their “live well and thrive” concept has successfully taken the focus off of the cost-control/disease-management angle of modern medicine and presents Kaiser Permanente as being primarily concerned with helping people achieve overall wellbeing. And here’s the brand-extending brilliance; they’ve taken the “thrive” concept well beyond the walls of a doctor’s office or lab and extended it into sweet bits of advice about how to live the good life, how to be happy. Their e-store sells branded merchandise like reusable shopping bags for the health of the planet and measuring spoons with advice on how to eat well. Their ads talk about the health benefits of kindness. It’s a stretch that makes sense to the tenets of their brand.

In order to ascertain the types of stretches that make sense and those that don’t you a really good sense of your brand position. I suspect that Kaiser Permanente wanted to reframe the negative image appropriately given to managed care companies as uncaring, corporate and cold. Their “thrive” position does this for them. Their brand marketing decisions to offer advice on overall wellness takes that position and extends it, gives it additional reach, flexibility, and strength.

Assessing the good stretch starts here:

  • What’s your organization’s brand position? Have you staked your own branded flag in a position that offers something different and valuable to your constituents?
  • And, once staked, how do you get that flag to wave in a way that attracts the notice of your customers? What are the brand
    attributes for which you want to be known?
  • What are the logical ways you can get that position to stretch and bend?

Kyndra Wilson, KW Brand Translation, LLC



  1. Are the grinders for sale? I like the way you move, Wilson!


  2. These are some interesting thoughts on what makes a brand extension ‘work’ and helps to illuminate some of the principles behind a successful brand extension We would add that the there is more to a good brand extension than just understanding the core competencies of a brand, the demands and mood of the current market matter immensely as well.

    • Great point! Timing can really make a big difference and should certainly be factored into the decision.

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