Brand Fuel Express 24 – Part 3 – Grow the core like bugaboo

This is the last of 3 posts reporting back from the Brand Fuel Express. Here we look at some highlights from the session I ran on Core Brand Renovation. This is the topic of brandgym book number 6, which come out in the next few weeks in eBook form on the brand new website "Shoulders of Giants" (… more on SOG later…

1. Brand stretching is sexy, but risky: This has been a common theme on the brandgym blog. Regular readers will know about the risks of "brand ego tripping", when companies get too big for their brand boots and stretch into markets where they add little or no added value. Examples include easyGroup, Virgin and Tango.

2. Dwarf products are even worse:
these are the tiny new products that manage to survive, but have no chance of becoming big. They are a distraction that steals time, money and resources away from the core business. The neglected core suffers a slow but steady decline.

3. An alternative: grow the core: the other way to grow is less sexy, but can be much better for the bottom line. This way is growing the core business. To do this, you need to be clear about your source of authority: what made you famous in the first place when you launched your core product. Then, the big challenge is to keep refreshing this to keep it relevant, through innovation on the core and communication.

4. Brand it like bugaboo: this brand of high-end baby strollers (1000 Euros a pop) was the star case study of my session. The brand is Dutch, but also has a big business in the UK and USA.

It is one of the coolest brands I have been lucky enough to work on. I am a big fan of product design (hence my appleaddiction), so working on a brand growth project with them earlier this year was a blast.

bugaboo have grown from scratch to an $80million business in under 10 years, and take the leading share of premium strollers in Holland. Here are some of the many things they have done well in growing the core:

– Remember what made you famous: bugaboo have stuck to the core business, without the need to stretch off into bugaboo baby food/high chairs/clothing/etc. a la Virgin. Having a clear idea of what bugaboo is all about is facilitated by the ongoing, hands-on involvement of co-founder and design genius Max. He is the living, breathing incarnation of the bugaboo brand, playing the same role as Steve Jobs at Apple.

– Starts with the sausage: Seeing Max demonstrate the many special features of the bugaboo stroller was one of the highlights of the project I did, and of my brandgym career to date. These features include proper suspension for bumpy urban kerbs, adjustable-height handle and real pneumatic tyres. And the whole product is so well built it lasts for longer than the competition. You can also use a wide range of different coloured fabrics and accessories to personalise your bugaboo.

The visual design features of the brand are also becoming iconic and instantly recognizable, in the same way Apple have done in PCs, MP3 players and phones.

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– Plenty of sizzzzle: There is also lots of emotional sizzle in bugaboo for sure. The brand is a fave of celebrities, earning the brand invaluable press coverage. It was also featured in Sex and the City, a key factor in the brand's development in the USA. And there is also a stream of distinctive, stylish communication and lifestyle activation ideas, such as bugaboo day trips (guides to cool cities where you can go strolling with your bugaboo).

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– Waves of renovation: The big challenge with renovation is to keep coming with waves of news on the core business to make it better and better, and keep it refreshed. For example bugaboo have improved and upgraded the product range, through the top-end Chameleon, and more accessible, lighter Bee.

So, that's it for the Brand Fuel 24 of 2008… make sure you book your ticket for the 2009 journey, which is set to be even bigger and better!