Brand extensions are not easy money. Interbrew should tread carefully as it ventures the Murphy‘s and Boddingtons brands into prepared meals since a poor extension inevitably damages the original brand. Interbrew is using Boddingtons and Murphy’s as a quality benchmark for the meals, so if the meals are not that good it should expect the brands to suffer.

Interbrew is extending its Murphy’s and Boddingtons brands into chilled meals under licence to Hazlewood Foods. The range includes Boddingtons steak & ale stew and Murphy’s bangers & mash with stout gravy.

Brand extensions are a popular way to broaden brand equity into other markets, but they are rarely the low risk, easy money bringers that marketers hope them to be. Indeed, there are plenty of failures, including Coca Cola clothing, Impulse shower gels and Colgate ready meals.

Once a strong brand has been established the product moves beyond its functional properties into the realm of values. It is these values that must fit with any brand extension – if they do not logically stretch into a new area then success is far from guaranteed.

This means that big leaps can be made with brand extensions. For example, supermarkets moved into financial services because they were able to transfer values of convenience and trust to the new product. By contrast, Colgate’s Kitchen Entree meals didn’t work since the brand values of Colgate were so strongly ingrained with healthcare and cleanliness – not something that sits well with the indulgences and flavours associated with mealtime.

Interbrew’s brand extension transfers the brand in a functional sense; Boddingtons and Murphy’s ale is used in the recipes. Boddingtons’ ‘cheeky and trendy’ values are not being leveraged in any way. Interbrew will be hoping to assure consumers that the meals are high quality products because of the quality of the beer. However, should the meals fall short in terms of quality, it will certainly damage the beers’ image and future brand value.

This brand extension is a relatively tame and safe one, provided that the meals are of good quality. However it does nothing for the beers’ brand value and could in fact do it damage – Interbrew should not be tempted to stretch this one any further.

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