“Idea Extension Trap”!!!

Al Ries and Jack Trout the “Art of Positioning” gurus in their best seller – ‘Positioning – The battle for your mind’ devoted one full chapter on what they call as the “Line Extension Trap”. They claimed that Line Extension whereby marketers having built a successful brand in one product category extend the same brand to another line of products is a trap. A vicious trap which as per the marketing gurus ends up diluting the core promise of the original brand.  A Ponds talcum powder which has been a very successful brand when extended to a tooth paste confuses the consumer and eventually fails. And there are more examples. But in business, line extension is often the trap which the brand managers walk into with their eyes open with their advertising agencies in tow.


These are the times of “Big Ideas”. And I see the same extension happening on good ideas. For example once an advertising communication idea once does well as measured by the viral and viewership statistics the temptation is to flog it again and again.  This, without realizing that the idea is already way past the best before date. A telling example of this is the Star Sports’ Mauka Mauka campaign. The first spot (see here) on this now familiar campaign was conceived before the Indo-Pak encounter in the league stages of the ICC ODI World Cup in 2015. With the background of the previous Indo-Pak meetings at the Cricket World Cup which have all been won by India, the spot featuring a Pakistani fan waiting desparately for a Mauka (opportunity) to celebrate a Pakistani win was bang on. The idea, the story and its execution no wonder caught the fancy of millions of fans and the commercial soon became a case study for viral marketing! It also spawned a variety of spoofs which added to the value of the Idea. So it was not surprising that Star Sports followed it up with another Mauka spot for the next India match which again became popular. Having smelt blood, the broadcaster decided to flog the Mauka Idea. India exited the World Cup in the Semis, but the Mauka spots didn’t. Now as the World Cup progressed, Mauka spots started to get boring, repetitive and almost were like being thrust upon the audience. One year later, for the ICC T20 World Wup, Star Sports was back as the official broadcaster. So did the Mauka ad just before the Indo-Pak match. Only that this time, the story line looked unnatural and the ad fell flat in terms of idea and execution. Now this is what happens when marketers (Star Sports in this case) waltz into the “Idea Extension Trap”. Star Sports is not alone and there are many others in its August Company.

Vodafone for one. I feel that the mobile service provider with its once adorable pug has also fallen into this trap. For its 4G launch (watch here), it has tried to resurrect the charm of the pug which few years ago did wonders for Hutch with its “Wherever you go our network follows” campaign. The pug again was brought into action when Hutch became Vodafone and it wanted to popularize their “Happy to Help” stores. But now in this Vodafone’s 4G launch campaign, the pug is looking tired and jaded (atleast in our eyes) and the campaign when compared to the Airtel’s 4G campaign doesn’t stand and that’s in my humble opinion.

In the big screen also oflate, idea extensions have become rampant. The original Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Gol maal was a classic and will remain one. This is one film which got remade in almost all major Indian languages. But the subsequent Rohit Shetty imitations of Gol maal in the form of Gol maal returns, Gol maal 3,..  will remain just that.  Lowly imitations of an idea which has now been flogged to death. Rohit Shetty went one step ahead by milking the same Gol Maal idea in another name – Bol Bachchan!!

This bug of Idea Extension is most prevalent in TV programming content. A successful format gets packaged, repackaged and extended and finally kills the original idea. When Kaun Banega Crorepati becomes a roaring hit with Amitabh Bachchan in Hindi, the producers extend the same KBC format to different languages with regional stars. The fact remains that there can be only one Amitabh Bachchan. The regional shows turn out to be pale imitations of the original big idea.

Is this trend of extending and flogging ideas which have worked in the past, due to pressure on time or pressure on cost, or a thought out strategy or plain laziness or a combination of all these is a matter of conjecture.  But one thing is very visible and clear. The temptation to walk into the “Idea Extension trap” is real and looks like may not recede in the near future.

Post script: Now here’s the irony. Having tasted enormous success with their 1st book –‘Positioning – The Battle for your Minds’, where they warned marketers of the “Line Extension trap” authors Al Ries and Jack Trout did exactly the same thing. Extended the “battle” concept to their next book and called it ‘Marketing Warfare’!!!

0 thoughts on ““Idea Extension Trap”!!!”

  1. Anand,

    Interesting read. Yes. It is a trap in many cases. In terms of branding, another example coming to my mind was Maruti Suzuki Zen. Very successful one. But it failed when relaunched as Zen Estilo, may the timing was wrong or other Maruti brands cannibalised it.
    In terms of ideas that have universal appeal or impact, I feel they may become successful even if extended. For example, some of the movies remade in other languages became successful too like original

    1. Hi Mukund, thanks for the comments as always.
      I was mainly focussing on one extending their own hit idea – sort of milking the cow to the hilt before it starts bleeding!
      In reality its always a tough call as to when to pull the curtain on an idea which has done well! In that sense its a trap!
      Thanks for your insights.

  2. Very interesting topic Anand. I think lack of creativity and originality is the main reason. Well explored. I guess you could mention many more examples. Suri

    1. Hi Suri, Many examples came to my mind, but had to curtail due to length of the post. Yes you are right. To a large extent lazy creativity is one reason for continuing to milk one hit idea! Thanks for writing in as always.

  3. RSA, very good one as usual… As you rightly pointed out most of the times it back fired..May be becos it is too repeative also after some time we tend forget these like ads Maucca and Vodafone though they are good ones but just becos of its overdose..

    How can you forget ads like Feviquick (fishing), fevicol and woodwards gripe water (generation one) what great msgs it conveyed. They were smartly never tried again..and still you think about it…

    We also thought about bringing back famous “ice ice baby” jingle, but somehow held it back..

    Very good blog RSA.. Hats off buddy !!

  4. Hi Anand, its a great idea exploring the evolution of “Big ideas” and their survival. A lot are there though you touched only a few. Whether the commodity is useful or available to the common man or not a lot of Advertisement and Marketing made themselves rich and surviving.

    Once it was commented for Nirma Jingles as “It was immaterial whether the detergent gave clothes the “Dhood si Safedi” or not, the most important thing was its ad.

    Some are still surviving like the Liril’s “Laa laa la laa” due to the the changing instruments and females (latest being a Brazilian Girl) in the same Tune, as years passed on. Credit goes to the creators of the ad, Lowe and McCann Erickson

    Some times its a deciding factor and the recent Vodafone Ad should not have been approved by the Communication Giant, as it gave a dull feeling.

    Anyhow “Big Ideas” are still wanted and they have their own charm similar to the “Title Music” in 007 bond movies without which there won’t be a good start for every release.

    Thanks, Anand for the highlights.

    Come up with “more ideas” in your blogs, Man. Cheers!

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