In the quest for growth, many businesses fall prey to the line-extension trap. This occurs when a brand extends its product line beyond its core competency, diluting its brand positioning and potentially confusing customers. While the allure of new markets and revenue streams is undeniable, line extensions can backfire if not carefully considered.

Understanding Positioning:

Positioning refers to the space a brand occupies in the customer’s mind relative to competitors. It’s about the unique value proposition and the associations a brand evokes. There are two key aspects:

  • Brand Positioning: This defines the overall perception of the brand and its core values.
  • Product Positioning: This focuses on how a specific product fits within the brand’s overall positioning and how it compares to competitors.

The Line-Extension Trap Explained:

Imagine a company known for its premium athletic shoes (strong brand positioning). They decide to launch a budget-friendly line of casual footwear (line extension). This can create confusion:

  • Brand Dilution: The budget line might not meet the quality standards associated with the brand, tarnishing its overall image.
  • Customer Confusion: Consumers might question if the brand still represents premium quality or if it has shifted focus.
  • Cannibalization: The new budget line might cannibalize sales from the existing premium shoe line.

Real-World Examples of the Line-Extension Trap:

  • Haagen-Dazs: Known for its luxurious ice cream, Haagen-Dazs’ foray into frozen yogurt proved unsuccessful. Consumers didn’t associate the brand with frozen yogurt, leading to poor sales.
  • Gap: Gap attempted to target a younger audience with its sub-brand “GapKids” clothing with simpler designs. However, it alienated its core customer base who valued Gap’s classic style.

Alternatives to the Line-Extension Trap:

  • Brand Repositioning: If a brand desires to enter a new market, consider repositioning itself or creating a sub-brand with a distinct identity.
  • Innovation Within the Core: Look for ways to innovate and expand product lines that stay true to the brand’s core values and target audience.
  • Strategic Partnerships: Collaborate with other brands to reach new demographics while maintaining your brand positioning.

How to Avoid the Line-Extension Trap:

  • Stay True to Your Core Values: Any expansion should align with your brand’s DNA and resonate with your existing customer base.
  • Conduct Market Research: Thoroughly research the new market to ensure a good fit and identify potential customer needs that align with your brand.
  • Maintain Quality Standards: Don’t compromise on quality in the pursuit of new markets. A single low-quality product can damage your brand reputation.
  • Clear Communication: If you do choose to extend your product line, clearly communicate the value proposition of the new offering and how it complements your existing brand.


The line-extension trap is a real danger for businesses seeking growth. By understanding brand positioning and its importance, you can make strategic decisions that avoid diluting your brand image. Focus on innovation within your core competency and explore alternative strategies to reach new markets without compromising your brand’s established position.


  • Regularly review your brand positioning to ensure it remains relevant in the evolving market.
  • Gather customer feedback to understand their needs and preferences for future product development.
  • Prioritize brand consistency across all marketing channels to maintain a clear and unified brand image.

By following these strategies, you can ensure your brand maintains a strong position in the customer’s mind and avoids the pitfalls of the line-extension trap.

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