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M&S Launch a New ‘Basic’ Food Range – So Why Do I Feel Betrayed?

Simply M&S food brand
Cheap and M&S quality? And pigs are flying?

Aldi, Morrissons, Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Waitrose – in my mind that is the ascending order of grocery stores in terms of cost and quality. I would never buy chicken in Aldi unless it is a free range product. I treat Asda as good for kid’s clothes, Tesco as everyday reliable, Sainsbury’s as a bit more fancy and Waitrose as expensive but special, reliable quality – with some good sushi. And M&S? Up until now I considered it as a shop for a mid-week treat, a quality ready meal, for own-branded products that are a bit more expensive than other grocery stores. A business aware of their corporate responsibility and choice of sourcing and ingredients.
It seems I will have to re-evaluate. M&S this week launched Simply M&S, a new range of ‘basic’ products, 800 in Autumn, at budget prices. There may be good reasons for this decision, faced with the double dipped economy, stronger competition among food suppliers and the need for brands such as Waitrose and M&S to gain new customers.
But why pick that strap line – “M&S quality now at prices you’ll love” – ??? I can’t help but feel betrayed! Was I not supposed to love their prices before? Did they not spend all this time  convincing me that they are worth the extra money? I just can’t imagine what this will say about their existing ranges – let alone for their Marks and Spencer Simply Food stores at service stations.
I guess it’s another ‘let’s see’ situation and I may find myself deeply infatuated with the new budget brand – or it may be the end of a love affair.

brand extensions, Branding

SME Business Lesson #10 – Be Patient and Grow Slowly

You are busy selling your products or service and business life couldn’t be better – or more exciting. It is at this point that it is tempting to expand your brand offering and to try and get more market share elsewhere.
Think twice before venturing into unknown territory. Your brand will be much stronger and probably more profitable if you concentrate on your core strength first. Make sure you achieve your branding goals, become the market leader or one of the major players in your sector and work hard on getting your unique selling point across.
Unless you like a risky gamble, only when your brand is well established and recognised by your target audience and has enough brand ambassadors to keep new and repeat business coming in, only then would I advise to look into diversifying.
There are bound to be implications for your core business –

  • Starting from the top, your business, brand and marketing strategy need re-thinking and adjusting
  • Not all your stakeholders will buy into your brand extension and may feel alienated
  • New infrastructure requirements will stretch your resources and challenge your existing and new brand
  • Your new brand will need some sort of investment – time or money – before it will be a revenue earner, so cashflow may be an issue
  • You will have less time to dedicate to a particular area of your business which may be detrimental to your existing client base
Brandingstrategyinsider.com has just published this article answering a question of an India based soap manufacturer and whilst it relates to large brands, but I think it is relevant for SMEs also.
“…one must first understand what brand associations are most closely tied to the brand in question. Any brand extension into a new product category must reinforce one of those primary associations without creating new negative, conflicting or confusing associations for the brand. If this rule is followed, the brand extension will actually reinforce what the brand stands for.” Brad VanAuken

You can read the article here: Can Brand Extensions Weaken A Brand?: Branding Strategy Insider. I had also posted an article back in 2010 about some of those weak or failed brand expansion attempts. And here are some more strange big brand extensions:

Donald Trump launched Trump Steaks
Donald Trump launched Trump Steaks

cosmopolitan brand flop
Cosmopolitan owned a yoghurt brand for all but 18 months

Stallone High Protein Pudding
Silvester Stallone gave his name to a high protein pudding. Yum.

barbie_golf_natalie Meyer
Barbie launched a clothing range (Image courtesy of Natalie Meyer)

In essence, businesses naturally need to expand or change to keep their brand and brand promise current, valid and fit for the future. But whilst it may be tempting to diversify early, time will be better spent establishing a strong brand identity and market position – and to truly understand how to apply your existing brand values to the new product or service.

brand extensions, SME

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