Stella Black brand extension: hit or miss.

Stella Artois really do seem to have the brand extension bug. After launching Stella 4%, here comes Stella Artois Black, a supposedly upmarket beer, as reported in Marketing. Is it likely to be a hit or a miss? Let's run it through the brandgym brand stretch-ometer.

Screen shot 2010-07-06 at 10.02.30

Does it add real value for the consumer?: According to AB InBev president Stuart MacFarlane, Stella Black is for
"down-tempo, reflective" occasions, rather
than on big nights out. However, if I want a more special, premium beer for this sort of occasion, I have a plethora of premium lagers to choose from, such as Peroni, Grolsch and Pilsner Urquell. All of these have more premium credentials than Stella Black. It feels like a case of the extension making more sense for the company than it does for the consumer.

Differentiated vs. core product: this is where the future for Stella Black really looks black to me. The product has an ABV (alcoholic strength) of 4.9%. Which compares to the core product with…. 5.0%. The glassware and presentation looks similar to the core product. Which, by the way, has been marketed for 25 years as being "reassuringly expensive". Its now going to be "reassuringly expensive, but not quite as expensive as Stella Black"?

McFarlane is quoted as saying "Twenty-somethings have grown up with six
or seven
different types of Coca-Cola. Why can't we do what Coke did?" The
difference is that Coke's range is made up of truly differentiated
propositions, such as Diet and Cherry.

Neglecting the core: the other problem with extensions like Stella Black is that they take attention away from the core business. There is already Stella 4% to manage, which at least is a differentiated proposition. But Black is so close to the core that it risks creating confusion for consumers, retailers and even people inside the business.

What makes this story all the more surprising is the previous failure of Stella's stretching. I posted back in November 2007 on "La Famille Artois", with Stella Bock and Peterman Artois pictured below. Both of these extensions were killed.

Screen shot 2010-07-06 at 10.03.59

In conclusion, I expect Stella Black to be a sobering 😉 tale of how not to extend a brand. We'll check back in a year to see what's happened.