Brand Extensions Achieve MAXIMum Failure

On the cover of Maxim magazine the publication promises the same thing every month: ”Hot Women, Wild Parties, Cool Clothes, Trendy Drinks and High Tech Gadgets.” In June 2002 the hip men’s Magazine figuratively added ”Hair Color.” The magazine’s owner, Dennis Publishing, in a collaboration with Combe, maker of Just for Men hair color, extended the Maxim brand to hair care products. The press release stated, “Maxim Magazine Haircare is giving guys the opportunity to have an edgy look that is no longer relegated to just the stage or movie screen.” The Maxim brand really extended itself when it decided to decided to enter the hair care aisle. Youth-oriented, frosted hair dye? They did have cool color name options: Bleach Blond, Sandstorm, Black Jack and Red Rum.

Did Maxim violated marketing strategist Al Ries’s “Law of Extension” – the most violated among all the “immutable laws of marketing?” Michael Wendroff, vice president for hair color marketing at Combe said ”We did a lot of research, young guys are already entering the market, but they didn’t want to enter a salon or use a woman’s hair product. And we thought there would be nothing more comfortable for guys than Maxim. That makes it a guy thing.” ”Maxim is a real cool brand,” Manager for brand development at Dennis Publishing, Barry Pincus, said ”Guys look up to us, and women love us as well. They trust who we are. And this gives them a tangible interface with our brand that they can touch or feel.” Magazine ads showed women who could not resist the Maxim frosted male. ”Most of the people who use our Just for Men product are older, but young people have an awareness of it because of all the advertising we’ve done,” Mr. Wendroff said. ”Now we can use the sex appeal and irreverent humor to reach a new market.”

Since you’ve read the title of this post you probably already know how this story ends. Have you seen Maximum Magazine Harecare in your local CVS lately? Probably not. The product disappeared from shelves not long after it was voted the “second worst brand extension” in the 2005 brand extension winners and losers survey by New York branding consultancy Tipping Sprung and trade publication Brandweek. Then it was quietly swept under the rug.

But what went wrong? The brand managers were so enthusiastic. They had research! They simply stretched their brand too far. Most failed brand extensions don’t jibe with how consumers understand the core brand or just don’t seem to match with the company’s existing product line. “The idea of staying home alone at night and staining your towels as you dye your hair just doesn’t coincide with Maxim’s image of a guy out partying with the beautiful people,” says Martyn Tipping, president and director of brand strategy at Tipping Sprung.