The high cost of brand promiscuity

I made this up, of course. Apple would never sign a licensing deal with Mr. Coffee because Apple would never “leverage the brand” that way. Apple’s core business is strong, Apple’s brand equity is high, Apple’s executives are confident, and Apple’s business vision is so clear that they’d never climb into bed with a guy like Mr. Coffee. Doing so would be a clear sign that Apple had lost its way, and was running on brand fumes from a bygone era.

Now, consider these deals:

I am not making these up. And while Davidoff Cool Water is technically a partnership (they give us money for our Pristine Seas initiative, and then get to parade in public with our Society’s logo), the others are all licensing deals to manufacture products under the National Geographic name: camping gear (American Rec), optics (Bresser), stationery (International Greetings), luggage (TravelPro), and area rugs (Concord Global Trading).

While these are some of the more recent deals, it’s worth remembering that this leveraging of the National Geographic brand has been going on for years (e.g., National Geographic-branded cheese, bedroom furniture, wristwatches, coffee beans, air freshener, and lots more.)

There’s nothing inherently wrong with such deals, of course. I assume all our partners make very nice products, and the revenue generated by such ventures helps support our Society. But when you think about the long-term sustainability of this strategy, you have to wonder: What will a 20-year-old consumer think of National Geographic when s/he sees our brand slapped on so many different — and unrelated — products?

Or, put another way: Why hasn’t Apple signed a licensing deal with Mr. Coffee?


Coming up:
My four-part video interview with a business school professor
who specializes in marketing and brand management.
Among my questions:
Can a business promiscuously leverage its brand today,
and still wake up tomorrow morning with its reputation intact? 

  • Guest

    Boy, you got me Alan. I was thinking WTH is Apple doing?? As you, I, and others have mentioned—it’s all about making money for those at the top.

    • G – And I thought just the headline alone would be enough to let people know it was a parody.

      Re: money for those at the top — I’m quite sure it’s not greed that drives these deals. Mostly it’s the lack of any ideas of what else National Geographic can do. If John Fahey could implement a strategy that enabled him to protect the NGS brand they way Apple does, I think he’d do it. But lacking a strategy, we’re hooking up with Davidoff Cool Water & Concord Global Trading instead. 

      Here’s hoping John, Tim & Co have something else up their sleeve…..

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