Your toothbrush never saw it coming, and neither did anyone else outside the 12-and-under demographic. "Brushing is anything but boring" is the claim of the new Crest Be toothpaste line
announced by Procter & Gamble
(NYSE:PG) earlier this week. The product extension, scheduled to hit shelves this month for $4.99 per tube, will launch with three "nontraditional" flavors: Mint Chocolate Trek, Lime Spearmint Zest, and Vanilla Mint Spark.
This oral innovation appears to be part of P&G's overall strategy to drive growth in developed markets like the US, according to the Associated Press
. The Crest Be line was "designed to allow for an unexpected experience through flavors that offer personal expression," according to P&G Marketing Director Rishi Dhingra. The dedicated website pushes the product with such adjectives as "dynamic," "adventurous," and "inspired"; the 30-second Crest spot
promises "a burst of excitement" and features a smiling young woman balances on a lime.
But do people really crave personal expression right after they've stumbled out of the shower? Or want to take their mouths on "an exhilarating ride" with chocolate-flavored toothpaste? Isn't the point of brushing to get all the other flavors out
? Ideally, for a product or brand extension to work, there shouldn't just be a need or want in the market for it: Consumers also should be able to connect the dots between the core product and its extension.
I have no idea how the Crest Be line will fare (well, I have a hunch, since in moments of desperation I've had to use my seven-year-old's bubblegum-flavored toothpaste; it wasn't exhilarating). But here are examples of other extensions in the health/personal care category that weren't as inspiring as R&D hoped they'd be -- if R&D was involved at all.
Shampoo That Looked So Good Some People Wanted to Eat It
Remember when shampoo marketing was really strange? When washing your hair was akin to a trippy spa day
in the Garden of Eden, or a romantic evening spent with your spouse scouring your scalp
over the sink?
Procter & Gamble's Clairol unit decided to weird everyone out even more with its Look of Buttermilk shampoo in 1974, followed five years later by Touch of Yogurt shampoo. Clairol was apparently trying to capitalize
on the natural-ingredients trend of the time (other shampoos from the '70s contained herbs, lemon, and honey), but both products tanked. No one seemed to know what buttermilk was supposed to look like (or why you'd want your hair to look or
smell like it), or why you'd want to smother your hair in a mess of yogurt. Some confused consumers even reportedly drank Touch of Yogurt and became ill. At least Bristol-Myers
(NYSE:BMY) warned people not to drink
its beer-enriched Body on Tap hair product.
Brand Names So Powerful That People Just Couldn't Eat Them
Sometimes a brand can be so strongly associated with a particular product that it's impossible for consumers to look beyond that association and embrace its brand extension. The team that managed Ben-Gay, a Pfizer
(NYSE:PFE) brand now owned by Johnson & Johnson
(NYSE:JNJ), in the mid-1990s almost can't be faulted for thinking it could stretch into the aspirin market. After all, Ben-Gay (now Bengay), known for its topical analgesic creams and gels, was synonymous with pain relief.
But Ben-Gay aspirin was a failure. While consumers longed for the burning sensation of Ben-Gay on their skin to ease their aches and pains, swallowing that relief in oral form didn't go down as smooth.
(NYSE:UL) ran into a similar roadblock when it tried to extend its Pond's brand (recognized up to that point for skin creams and soap products) to the toothpaste category in the early 2000s. Although consumers didn't have a problem
with the Pond's toothpaste in blind tests, they balked at ingesting a brand they had previously smeared all over their faces.
In 1982, Colgate-Palmolive
(NYSE:CL) tried to completely break its brand out of the bathroom and into the kitchen. The resulting Colgate Kitchen Entrees line of frozen meals now regularly ends up on "brand extension failures" lists as an epic example of what happens when you don't do enough market research. While the company obviously thought the Colgate logo on the front of the packaging would boost the new line's cred, consumers couldn't seem to reconcile their subconscious thoughts of toothpaste with their microwave dinners.
The Cheesiest Lip Balm You Will (Hopefully) Ever See
Like having moist, well-hydrated lips? Like Cheetos? Then you would have loved
Cheetos Lip Balm. Or maybe not, since no one else did.
In 2005, someone at Frito-Lay, a division of Pepsi-Co.
(NYSE:PEP), decided it would be a good idea to partner with Lotta Luv, a licensed lip-product manufacturer, to create this waxy lip salve
with the flavor of cheese-flavored puffed cornmeal. I don't think we need to elaborate on why this was not a good idea.
Scent of a Biker Woman (And Other Perfumes No One Wanted to Wear)
(NYSE:HOG) has one of the most loyal brand followings in the world -- its stock ticker symbol was even changed from "HDI" to "HOG"
in 2006 to reflect Harley Owners Group evangelism. In the mid-1990s, the company thought it would rely on its chrome-clad, bad-ass reputation
to launch a line of colognes and perfumes. Instead, consumers turned up their noses at this overextension of the brand, and Harley-Davidson headed back to its reliable trough of clothing, jewelry, and collectibles lines to complement its heavyweight hogs.
Maybe it makes marginally
more sense for fast food companies to transition the aromas of their signature dishes to the perfume aisle. Which apparently explains why Pizza Hut Canada, owned by Yum Brands
(NYSE:YUM), produced 110 bottles
of its Eau de Pizza Hut (its fragrance replicated the "smell of a Pizza Hut pizza box being opened") to give out to Facebook
(NASDAQ:FB) fans in 2012.
A few years before that, Burger King
(NYSE:BKW) launched a short-lived line of men's body spray called Flame by BK, touted as
"the scent of seduction, with a hint of flame-broiled meat." A limited supply of the product was sold in 5-milliliter bottles for $3.99 on a dedicated website and in Ricky's stores in New York City, often accompanied by window displays of a half-naked Burger King mascot (that bearded guy with the crown and the creepy grin).
But while these products may have brought out the carnivore in Kathie Lee
and made Andy Richter irresistible
, regular consumers weren't impressed. "I would not wear it out of principle," said Mike G., a 23-year-old man on the street interviewed by Today
shortly after the Burger King perfume debuted. "I would never wear a cologne from a fast food restaurant. It actually angers me slightly."
I hear you, Mike G. I was about to give up on this category, too -- until I saw the five-star reviews on the Demeter Fragrance website for a Play-Doh cologne spray
(OK, there were only four reviews, but they were very
enthusiastic). The consumers who rave about the fragrance based on the popular Hasbro
(NASDAQ:HAS) modeling clay have only amazing things to say about the spray, a product specially formulated for "highly creative people who seek a whimsical scent reminiscent of their childhood." Due to the pleasant memories this fragrance evokes, one patron even insists she's going to wear it everywhere she goes.
Huh. Most adults liked chocolate when they were kids, right? Maybe Crest has a shot with its fancy flavored toothpastes after all.
Jenn Gidman is an editor and writer who has whipped content into shape for MSN, AOL, brandchannel.com, Reader's Digest, and Scholastic. You can find her on Twitter at @jenngidman.