Makeover Challenge

Being Smart with Extensions

Posted: October 12, 2009 by
Ron Romanik

In this slow economy, many resources are being stretched thin by the demands of the marketplace. However, using limited resources smartly to expand a brand's presence may pay huge dividends when the economy rebounds. Consumer goods companies are experimenting with ever more brand extension product lines with careful consideration of the role of package design.

Every brand has its own personality and its own strengths. How far the strengths of a brand can be extended and stretched is a question that can only be answered by pushing at the edges of the envelope until the market pushes back. Package design plays a key role in presenting a brand in its most appropriate position in relation to what the brand extension is trying to achieve. Consumers can turn a cynical eye to a brand that is being dishonest with the consumer—or with itself.

Every brand extension initiative can yield unique answers to fundamental questions: Can the parent brand achieve an "umbrella" effect, instilling trust in the consumer? Can a subbrand both stand on its own and benefit from a relationship with the parent? Would a brand endorsement strategy work best when the brand leaves its comfort zone? What are the risks when extending to categories that do not overlap with the parent brand's core values?

In this issue, we present a number of perspectives on implementing successful design strategies for brand extensions and avoiding the risks involved. Our Front Panel columnist explores the endorsement design strategy and its pitfalls in part 1 of a two-part article. Next month in part 2, the writer will explain how a strong package design physical likeness to a parent impacts perceptions about the brand overall and implies something about the underlying business's brand strategy.

In our Cover Story, Urban Decay discusses how a line of new products extends the success of one product introduced four-and-a-half years ago by expanding on the design sensibilities of that product. The company is confident the foundational demand for these new products has already been laid in the marketplace.

Major retailers also keep extending their store brands, and Daymon Worldwide's vice president of design shares his insights on how design impacts why some extensions succeed and others fail. And in a Spotlight article, we learn all the efforts expended into cementing Bayer's further expansion into the plant care category.

This issue also features the submissions in our 2009 Package Design Makeover Challenge. Readers always tell us how much they enjoy this hypothetical exercise in rebranding and repackaging. We encourage you to vote for your favorite Makeover online at


Ron Romanik