Where did they come from? Brands have been stretched for decades. Thomas Edison's General Electric company made light bulbs before it made jet engines. Sir Richard Branson has built a business empire with the technique. But there have been notable brand extension failures: Harley Davidson wine-coolers and after-shave, for example. The lesson seems to be: draw on the recognised qualities of your brand, and move carefully into genuinely adjacent markets. Innocent smoothies for kids make sense, as do Gillette's shaving gel and Napolina's pasta. But you wouldn't go to Woolworth's for some high-end confectionery, would you?
Where are they going? John Williamson, the former Wolff Olins director, says successful brands are big, simple, unique and true. The danger with stretching or extending is that you dilute those qualities. On the other hand, a well-established, well-managed brand might retain its bigness, simplicity, uniqueness and truth even after a bit of stretching. It all depends on the strength and depth of the brand. The more Google does, the bigger its brand gets. In fact, at this rate, we'll all end up working for it. But even the loudest advocates of brand extension might agree that this would be ridiculous.
FAD QUOTIENT (out of 10): Steady at seven.