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August 08, 2008

A Brand Extension Too Far

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

At my tender age I've become used to buying products that I'm familiar and comfortable with. Breakfast cereal examples are Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Life and Wheat Chex. Trouble is, it can take me a minute or so to pluck a Life box from a supermarket shelf. There are two reasons for this. In the first place, there are lots of cereal brands on the market these days and a well-stocked store will stock most of 'em, it seems. And then there are the brand extensions, a marketing ploy that's been in full force for 30 years or more. So once I find the shelf with boxes of Life, I then have to sort through the various Lifes to find the one I want. (For the record, there's the original Life and in addition are Honey Graham Life and Cinnamon Life.)

But that's okay. I'm a capitalist tool who thinks lots of brands and confusion trumps highly constrained choice (Nanny State Brand corn flakes, anyone?).

Even so, even I have a breaking point. Today in our cereals/crackers cupboard I discovered Multi-Grain Wheat Thins. (For all the varieties of Wheat thins, click here -- the multi-grain ones are shown at the top of the right-hand column of the ten pictured brand extension boxes as of today.)

To my feeble brain, the concept of a Wheat Thin not being jes' plain ol' wheat verges on the Zen.

The other grain ingredients, the box says, are barley, millet, rye and rolled oats (there's also cornstarch, but I'm not sure that counts as a grain).

Nabisco really ought to name them something like Multi-Grain Thins. They won't, because they lose the Wheat Thins brand-name inertia they've built up over the years. But at some point, too many brand extensions will ruin the brand by making it stand for nothing much in particular. The present ten varieties is already a lot to deal with, and debasing the wheat part probably won't improve prospects.



posted by Donald at August 8, 2008


Really, Donald! I'm surprised at you. Get with the program...

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on August 8, 2008 1:35 PM

I'm with you. How far can they extend a brand before it dilutes to total nothingness? I was buying toothpaste the other day and it seemed like there were rows upon rows of different kinds of Crest.

Anyway: check out the Wheat Thin link you supplied. There are 20 different kinds of Wheat Thins.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 8, 2008 6:18 PM

They ruined Quaker Oat Squares with this. They started making them in cinammon and then some stores would only carry that flavor, which annoyed me, so I stopped even looking for it on the shelves.

But I'll bet Alpha Men don't eat cereal. Perhaps they hunt for breakfast?

Posted by: Days of Broken Arrows on August 8, 2008 6:58 PM

I feel your pain, Donald. My husband buys the wheat thins, and they are lined up on top of our fridge. The multi grain wheat thins aren't even shaped right, and the paramesan wheat thins, you don't even wanna know.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on August 8, 2008 8:26 PM

Do you eat there items before, after or between your porridge and kippers?

Posted by: dearieme on August 9, 2008 10:13 AM

Even the regular Wheat Thins have other stuff besides wheat. Barley, Corn, Soy, all show up on the ingredient list.

Posted by: ZBicyclist on August 13, 2008 12:11 AM

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