Land Rover Coffee: bonkers brand extension?

So, that rugged, tough off-road vehicle brand Land Rover has launched as a brand extesion… a range of coffee. Land Rover Coffee is, according to the website, "A successful and desirable, internationally recognised coffee brand, renowned for its quality, with a difference."

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So, is this a good idea for Land Rover? Here are a few thoughts.

1. Brand licensing leads to lazy brand management

The potential problem with brand licensing, like Land Rover coffee, is that a brand owner can become lazy. A 3rd party company make and sell the coffee and take all the immediate risk. And I'm sure they have done a nice presentation showing how much free brand exposure Land Rover will get. However, the lack of risk for Land Rover with this sort of licensed product means they may be less demanding about the sort of product they launch. The result is a "Why not?" form of brand management.

easyGroup is an example of what happens with Why Not? brand extension: a legion of "dwarf extensions" that add little or no value, such as easy4men cosmetics, easyCinema, easyWatch.

2. Brand damage risk is limited

Ironically, the further away from the core product an extension is, the less likely it is to damage the brand if the product is rubbish. If Land Rover launched a motorbike with safety issues, that could do serious brand damage. However, launch something as far removed as a coffee and normal people (as opposed to brand folk) might think it is strange, but not much more. Even if the coffee is crap, will it stop you buying a new Land Rover if you want one? No.

3. Missing an opportunity

The risk of brand damage might be minimal, but Land Rover does seem to be missing a trick by having coffee as one of its major brand licensing deals. Surely there must be product categories with a better brand fit than coffee to go after?

Land Rover coffee "builds upon the genuine pioneering and enduring ascent of Land Rover" according to the website, but the link is tenuous (Land Rovers climb high and coffee is grown high up). Land Rover is about rugged, well engineered vehicles. They do sell bikes, which do a better job of promoting the brand, especially mountain bikes (below right). However, even the bike range has a pink kiddie bike in it, which is off-brand again (below left).

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4. Brand licensing isn't a free ride

Brand licensing might seem like a free ride. You get a bit of extra cash and some free brand exposure. However, in reality it requires time and effort to police what the licensees are doing. For example, clicking on the Land Rover Coffee website to see what a Land Rover coffee machine would be like, and I go the page below. Not great for what's supposed to be a high performance, reliable brand.

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In conclusion, I would add Land Rover Coffee to my long list of bonkers brand extensions. It does nothing to promote the Land Rover brand values and is an example of "Why not?" brand extension. It might not harm the brand, but seems a poor use of the brand team's licensing efforts.