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Case Study in Brand Extension

Laura Ries writes about an interesting case of brand extension:
My last post praised Geox, the first breathable shoe. Mario Moretti Polegato, CEO and founder of Geox, has built a powerful global shoe brand by focusing on one word “breathable.”
But then Ries follows up:
Mario’s itch has led him to start a Geox fashion line featuring clothes that breathe.

But he is staying focused you might be thinking. The product is still breathable. Yes, but there is a great difference between shoes and clothes. It is a great divide that Geox will have great difficulty crossing.


Now, I do think that extending the Geox brand to clothes instead of just shoes has its risks and liabilities. But just how serious these risks and liabilities are depends on whether "Geox" means "breathable shoe" or just "breathable".

If it means "breathable shoe", then extending the brand to clothes is actually a form of rebranding. It's not just a matter of applying the meaning of "Geox" to another line of products. It actually changes the meaning from "breathable shoe" to something broader. Changing what a brand stands for is a dangerous move.

If "Geox" already means "breathable" instead of the narrower "breathable shoe", on the other hand, then applying the brand to clothes is a natural extension that does not change the meaning of "Geox". Ries seems to believe it is an unwise decision, but I'm not sure.

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