Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Purdue.
What do all of these have in common?
• Hooters energy drink
• Colgate Kitchen Entrees
• Google Print Ads
• Willie Nelson biodiesel fuel
• Ben-Gay aspirin
That's an easy one. They are examples of brand extensions gone horribly wrong. Yes, these are real products and services that once upon a time came to market. Thankfully, we've forgotten most of them. But imagine the millions of dollars and thousands of hours wasted on these.
From a PR perspective, it is one of the most difficult challenges: helping a client with a trusted brand break into a new market. Public relations is essentially based on trust. When a PR agency is tasked with promoting a brand extension, the first questions to ask are: Why should key influencers trust that our client knows enough about this new market to succeed? Why should key influencers trust that the brand really cares about the end-consumer?
As a former journalist, whenever I was pitched by a PR agency about a brand extension or partnership, my B.S. meter lit up like a Christmas tree. Any smart journalist believes that a brand extension has one, and only one, ultimate goal: to make even more money for the company behind the successful brand. So, as a reporter, I was always loathe to give any of these companies what amounted to free advertising.
So how to convince the ever-skeptical journalist that your client's brand extension is worth covering? Check out Procter & Gamble's latest foray: Tide-branded dry-cleaning stores. P&G's PR machine landed the project on the front page of the New York Times business section in what William Randolph Hearst used to call a "puff" piece. What made P&G so successful?
1. Don't tell me, show me: P&G already has four Tide stores up and running. What better proof of concept is that? A press release announcing a brand extension filled with nothing but projections, hopes and dreams isn't worth the digital ink it's written with, so have some real-world evidence ready to go.
2. Let me experience it: It’s clear from the NY Times article that the reporter visited a Tide store and had unfettered access to customers and neighboring businesses. No press junkets here. There’s nothing like firsthand experience to get a reporter on your side.
3. Lift the lid: Clearly, P&G walked the reporter through the entire process of choosing the dry-cleaning industry for their latest brand extension. “Four years ago, FutureWorks began considering franchise opportunities…,” the journo writes. That type of background gives the reporter the perception that he is getting the scoop on his rival scribes.
4. Push the benefits, not the brand: When you pitch, forget for a moment that you’re pitching a well-known brand. Pitch the project as if it is a stand-alone program. That means emphasize the benefits of the new product or service over the brand. The NY Times’ coverage of Tide Dry Cleaning notes features like 24-hour pick-up, drive-through windows and eco-friendly cleaning products. The Times bought it hook, line and sinker.
While no one can predict whether or not Tide Dry Cleaning will end up in the dustbin of marketing history alongside Donald Trump steaks, no one can argue that they’ve achieved a PR coup.