The latest miscalculation in line extension is brought to you by Unilever, maker of Dove, the world's first "beauty bar." Dove was one of the first products in advertising history to "be positioned." With one-quarter cleansing cream, Dove differentiated itself as a beauty bar for women, not a harsh soap.
Over the past several years, Dove has been expanding its brand franchise in line extension into the feminine to include antiperspirants, deodorants, body washes, beauty bars, lotions, moisturizers, hair care and a host of other "related" care products. To gain cost efficiencies and trade acceptance, Dove has been quite willing to turn its highly focused brand, representing one idea, into an unfocused brand representing two or three or more ideas. While Dove today still has a large share of the women's soap market, its success in other products is as murky as its brand focus.
Still, Dove marches on. Astoundingly, now, there is a whole new product line extension of Dove Men+Care products. Dove for men? The name itself is ridiculous. Unilever has taken Dove mania one Dove too far. Our prediction is that line extinction is virtually guaranteed. Dove Men+Care is destined to join the heap of failures represented by other notables such as Gerber day-care, Life Savers gum, and Coors water.
Where do ideas like this come from? The corporate boardroom. The thinking goes something like this: "We make Dove soap, a beauty bar for women. We've gone as far as we can with the women's market. We have this metrosexual trend going on. When men see our products, they will know they come from Dove - they'll expect our products to be moisturizing and better for them. All we have to do is deepen the colors, macho the image up and bit . . . and presto, magic, Dove for men!" A baby only Wall Street could love. (But only for a short time).
This kind of thinking may go well around the boardroom, but it goes against positioning. What does it mean to position a brand in the mind? Simply this: The brand becomes a surrogate or substitute for the generic. "Hand me the Dove." "Get me the Bayer."
What's a Dove now? Who knows.
The difference in views is a matter of perspective. From the customer's perspective, each line extension weakens the brand position - in a sense educating the customer that Dove is nothing more than a name to be pushed around by the company to make more, sell more.
The more variations and line extensions Dove attaches to its brand, the more the prospect's mind loses focus, and the fuzzier the customer's picture of Dove's brand becomes.
Dove for men? Not for long.
Lorraine Kessler is Innis Maggiore's Principal Client Services & Positioning Strategist.