Sideways thinking can open up ideas for new products that use the raw materials your company already has. WGSN’s Sarah Housley reports
We’ve been speaking in-depth on WGSN lately about the power of old ideas, of digging back through the creative archives, of thinking clearly and rationally – decluttering your brand strategy. This approach is resonating with novelty-tired consumers, who simply want companies to do things well, to think logically, and to work sustainably. It’s the art of the thoughtful brand expansion.
Black Cow Vodka is a perfect example. It’s made by a farm situated on the west coast of Dorset, England. The vodka is delicious, and attracted a lot of attention from press and buyers when it launched because of its unusual story – it’s the world’s first pure milk vodka. While the vodka is made from whey, the curds from the milk go towards making cheddar cheese, which the farm also sells. So the raw material that the farm produces – milk – is separated into its two base elements, whey and curd, each of which goes on to make its own product line. Simple, but ingenious.
Then there’s Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company that is also starting from scratch – but in a very different way. Patagonia launched a food line, Patagonia Provisions, back in 2012, and this year released a documentary called Broken Ground that rethinks the whole agricultural system. What does this have to do with a clothing brand? Patagonia are following an approach called the first principles method: boiling down ideas to the most fundamental truths and working up from there. If sustainability is the brand’s driving force, and the current food system is one of the biggest barriers to living sustainably, then that’s where to start. This is brand expansion at base level.
Consider, next, a brand expansion that hasn’t even happened yet: furniture designer Tom Dixon has spoken about wanting to start a line of furniture polish, based on the fact that as the designer of his furniture, he knows best how to look after it. Rather than expecting another company to formulate the ideal cleaning solution for products he has created, why not offer his own range?
This isn’t a mind-blowing approach to brand extension. But it’s logical, and it works. Start with the basics – are you really making the most of your raw ingredients? And what else would your customers like you to create?
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