Madeleine McMullin on branding

August 2019

“If I told you that Aston Martin was extending its brand and asked you to guess what product area they had picked, what would you say?

Motor bikes?

Luxury yachts or possibly speed boats?

Gentleman’s driving accessories? (Although there is a good chance that they already do those).  
No, the answer is kitchens…  

Now, I’ve spent a lot of my life working on brands and strategy.  In a former life in Japan, I was involved in extending the Wedgwood brand into tea and coffee, as well as belt buckles, key fobs, wallets, etc, decorated with the signature Jasper cameos.  

These offerings worked because, in the first instance, Wedgwood was indelibly associated with afternoon tea in Japan, where the marketing department simply reinforced the Japanese belief that everything in England stops at 3pm and a butler appears with a silver tray bearing bone china teacups and a pot of tea.

Secondly, the brand already had a thriving business selling jewellery bearing the cameos and was very successful with cufflinks and tiepins, so it was not a huge leap of the imagination to move this over to male accessories.

From the supplier end, when at BCT, I negotiated the contract for the production and supply of Laura Ashley tiles, which again was a natural step for them to take as they were already well known for their interior products.  This, combined with some beautiful designs, ensured the range was a success for both Laura Ashley and BCT and the partnership continued until the latter’s recent demise.

I’m not denying that it is possible to move further away from the original product offering in cases where there are very strong brand associations.

For example, Caterpillar and JCB both extended from machinery to work gear, as the toughness of the clothing chimed nicely with the tough nature of the work that the machinery is designed for.
However, in the case of Aston Martin, I cannot see how kitchens have anything to do with cars or where the synergy is supposed to come.  The press release talks up the fact that they are both design-led.  Fine, but so are all luxury purchases, and just because they are both well-designed and expensive doesn’t mean that the brand should go there.  

I guess that the best you can say is that the extension doesn’t damage the brand, as they are high-end luxury kitchens, but it doesn’t help it and possibly dilutes the equity.  
Still I can’t imagine that the range will be on the market for very long.”

Madeleine McMullin is a marketing consultant specialising in the tile and stone industry.  
She can be contacted on

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