debating the brand ultimatum

Joe Pine — author of the several best-selling business books including the recently published Authenticity, consultant, former TED speaker, cigar-aficionado, and a really smart guy — opened a friendly debate with me that I thought others might want to weigh in on.

The back story: The Brand Ultimatum is an article I recently wrote for the American Marketing Association’s Marketing Management magazine.  It argues that a deep brand identity – one with rich, multiple layers of associations – fuels successful brand extensions the way a deep hero character like Jason Bourne or Harry Potter fuels a successful movie franchise.

My POV: In the article I reference a few brands that don’t have a deep enough brand identity to warrant extensions into new categories — one of the examples I use is Harley-Davidson.  I explain, “the Harley brand is already completely understood; there is no more brand story to tell.  It has a rich and powerful identity but, colloquially speaking, there is no more ‘more’ there.  Seeking out novel categories into which to extend the brand (like cake decorating kits) ultimately makes the new products seem formulaic and forced.”

Joe’s POV: “Loved your article, Denise, on brand narratives — but I’m not sure I agree that there’s no more “more” at Harley.”

Your POV: ???  we’d love to hear what you think — does the Harley brand have rich, multiple layers of associations conveyed by a deep brand identity that provide the fodder for extensions?

OR, does Harley belong in the company of brands like Southwest Airlines, Target, and Volvo which enjoy strong brand equity built from unaffected, sophisticatedly simple identities, and therefore shouldn’t be extended?

Let us know your POV.

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