Brands must evolve and expand or they’ll end up losing market share to competitors. Kodak decided to stick with film. You know how that story ended. But how does a brand create logical brand extensions, products and services that are within their wheelhouse, without stretching their human and financial capital to the breaking point. They frequently take baby steps.
When Oreo wanted to capture more of the cookie market, they created the chocolate Oreo and the double stuffed Oreo. They didn’t create wagons. Many authors, entrepreneurs and small business owners struggle with their portfolio of services or products.
You are a brand. Your products or services are your brand offerings. When you add something new to your offerings, that becomes your brand extension.
Let’s say you are a successful author. You’ve written a great book on marketing. You’ve promoted the book with advertising, personal appearances, traditional media and even social media. Your brand, to the consumer, is “marketing expert.” Now you’re ready to add something new to your services. You might add consulting, coaching, webinars or live trainings. But if you were to add a cookbook to your brand, you’d have a great deal of work to do in order to bring people along with you as you evolve your brand from business to baking. BUT, if cooking is your passion and you’re using cooking as a metaphor for blending, mixing and creating a product, you’d have a brand extension. If the book were about your favorite cookie recipes, you’d need a new branding strategy.
It’s possible for a personal brand to evolve and include a wide variety of products and services. However, adding things far afield from a brand’s original DNA is best done once the brand is mature and the brand leader (YOU) is well established and has a strong and loyal following.
A Self-Evaluation is Your Road Map for Action
For the rest of us, annual evaluation and planning for our emerging brand life cycle is an exercise worth doing. As you plan your growth, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where’s the money? What is my most profitable offering right now? In other words, what are people buying from me now? When people are willing to part with their money to purchase your products or services, that’s the simplest and purest market research.
- Customer needs: are my current clients or customers asking me for additional information or services I don’t yet provide? If those services or products are within your skill set, this is the proverbial low hanging fruit. Put energy and time into providing your current client base with what they are already asking you to offer.
- Next offer: after I’ve delivered my first product or service to a client, and I know they are happy, what do I want to offer them next? This is the beginning of your funnel. Take note of the needs of your clients. See if there are natural additional ways to serve your client base. Repeat this question after every new product or service to create additional offerings.
- Brand extension: once you’ve developed a client base the trusts you and is thrilled with what you offer, you can begin to stretch your brand. This is best done in increments. Taking our example, the marketing book author might now write about sales by making the connection in the consumers mind between sales and marketing and letting marketers know they also have to be salespeople, especially if they are entrepreneurs or small business owners. Next, our expert might branch out and claim mind share as a provider of information about product development, distribution and even sourcing. He or she might divide upcoming product offerings into categories that provide deep knowledge in the how-to aspects of each phase of creating new products or services. Then our expert could create speeches, live events, webinars, DVD series, more books and other creative delivery systems for those new products.
Brand development is like story telling. Don’t try to take your reader from “Once Upon a Time,” to “the wicked witch was dead” in two steps. Tell the full story. Lead the consumer through your thinking process by offering logical, helpful, inventive product and service development. And, every step of the way, double check to see that your brand development is ringing true with your customer base. Brand storytelling is marketing. Your ideal reader or client isn’t interested in a one sentence story that shouts “buy my product, buy my product.” Your idea consumer wants you to paint a picture or a solution, entertainment or convenience that your product will introduce into their lives. They want to see themselves using the product, reading the book or enjoying your services. Your story should reveal a path from where people are now to where they could go if they do business with you.
When you’re clear about your intentions and you have your marketing story polished, then you can add a brand extension that will resonate with your fan base.