Monday, November 21, 2011

Greatest Brand Extension ... Ever

         As my time as a masters student in the integrated marketing communications (IMC) program at Northwestern’s Medill comes to a close, I can’t help but spend some time reflecting on my favorite lessons. It will come as no surprise to my peers that perhaps my all time favorite lecture took place in a course entitled Building Brand Equity. Ariel Goldfarb, Managing Partner at CurtisAlan Partners and IMC alumni, joined our class for a discussion on brand extensions. Dry topic? At first glance, perhaps. However, what Mr. Goldfarb soon revealed as an example of a lesser-known extension by a beloved brand blew my mind and resulted in hysterical fits of laughter. The example? None other than the bizarre brainchild of Sanrio, Inc., Hello Kitty sausage. 
As part of our discussion, Mr. Goldfarb shared with us the multiple pathways for brand extensions and the challenges in determining which pathways consumers are comfortable traveling down.  The six potential pathways ranged from core competency, functional benefits and usage context to product attributes, emotional benefits and brand identity. I was left pondering where Hello Kitty sausage might fit in the mix. I’d imagine the manufacturing of sausage is not within the realm of Sanrio’s core competencies and I’m not entirely sure what functional benefit is provided to a consumer who feels compelled to sample the kitten-encased sausage. I can, however, say with confidence that at least for me, an emotional benefit is provided by way of humor incited by the sheer ridiculousness of the product.

I am nothing if not curious and so, this newfound gem led me on a quest to establish what else Hello Kitty might be up to these days. In doing so, I discovered that not only has she been named government envoy” by Japan but she is a recording artist as well. Her album, the aptly named “Hello World” is said to be “an upbeat and perky compilation that reflects the life-embracing mood of the Hello Kitty brand.” Worry not; it’s available on iTunes!

Naturally, I felt the need to tweet about my discoveries. The result was my most re-tweeted tweet in my three month long tweeting career. And what’s more, I am officially—according to Kloutinfluential in both kitten and sausage categories.  At first, this finding caused me to hesitate in further enhancing the perception that I am a kitten and sausage expert by way of this blog post. It also led me to question the validity of Klout as sausage makes me slightly nauseous and I am much more of a dog person than a cat lady. I’ve since, however, determined that there is no harm in receiving “recent buzz about cats” or in reveling in my undeserved influence. So, cat and sausage lovers alike, should you need some expert advice in matters feline or sheathed-meat, I will happily oblige. 

Tyler Witkin, Graduate Northwestern IMC, @tylerwitkin

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