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Building your BA Brand – lessons from the corporate world - Part 2

Lesson 2 – Extend your brand but don’t stretch it to breaking point

If you’re a regular reader you’ll recall that a few weeks ago we considered what business analysts can learn about brand building from some of the biggest corporate names. In that piece we used the examples of Coca Cola and Ratners to highlight some of the key ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of branding.

Here we drill deeper into corporate brand theory and find out what BAs can learn from two nuanced brand-building strategies that the marketing world call ‘Brand Extension’ and ‘Brand Stretch’.

In a corporate sense, brand extension is an instance of using an established brand name or trademark on new products, to increase sales. When Heinz, owners of admired ketchup and baked beans products decided to launch a mayonnaise, consumers were happy to try the new product because Heinz were already established as a quality foodstuffs company. Another example is Apple, who extended their product range from Personal computers into MP3 players and then into smartphones.

In the BA world, brand extension can mean moving your career forward into more challenging areas having established sound foundations in your career to date. However, the new areas must align with business analysis and seem to be a logical next step.

Brand stretch, is a much riskier strategy. Essentially it involves using an established brand name to introduce unrelated products. Sometimes this can lead to short term successes. For example, when the James Bond franchise launched 007 fragrance they did so only in Harrods stores and the product sold out in days. However, once consumers had reflected on this offer they considered it to be a strange departure from the movie franchise and 007 never sustained these early successes. In fact, customers returned to established fragrance brands such as Armani, Boss and Calvin Klein - all trusted brands who had already successfully ‘extended’ from clothing to fragrance.

Some organisations have embarked on a strategy of brand stretch with unfortunate results. One case of almost stretching a brand to breaking point is that of Colgate, who most of us will associate with dental products. In the 1980’s Colgate attempted to ride the TV dinner wave by launching a frozen lasagne. It was not a success as customers couldn’t remove the thought of toothpaste from their minds while consuming the meat and pasta meal. The effect was to damage the integrity of the company’s traditional offering and, consequently, lasagne was soon taken off the Colgate menu.

Brand extension should be on every business analyst’s career plan. The examples above tell us that to successfully grow your brand you need to start from a sound foundation and then move into areas where your colleagues will trust you to be successful. For a business analyst this might mean volunteering to speak at BA conferences or events, or it may involve supporting, or even moving into, a business architect or a product owner role. However, BAs that attempt brand stretch by wandering ‘off piste’ and taking on assignments that are far beyond their skill set will as surely as Colgate face failure.

In summary, business analysts should never be afraid to take on challenges, move out of their comfort zone or be afraid to fail. Having said that, in the world of business analysis everyone should ensure they have a great foundation in business analysis knowledge and expertise and should aim to be a trusted BA. From this basis they will be able to extend their brand in a considered and, dare I say, ‘analytical’ way.

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