Beanstalk Powers Blueprint, A Consulting Group

Beanstalk is growing its business yet again as it evolves to become a full-service brand extension agency.

Its newest venture, Blueprint–Powered by Beanstalk, is dedicated to advising companies on how to evolve their brands through innovative and commercially viable brand development and extension strategies. Blueprint's goal is to enable brand owners to understand their market options and plan successful licensing strategies.

Nicole Desir, who has been named executive director, will lead the newly formed division. A 12-year veteran of the agency, Desir will expand on her role as vice president of brand management by spearheading the global implementation of this division.

"At Beanstalk, we have a long history of helping brands license their names and grow beyond their original product offering. Blueprint leverages this expertise," says Desir. "Our new division now makes Beanstalk a one-stop shop for licensors–it's an enhancement."

According to Desir, Blueprint will be able to answer the "hard questions" that brand owners need to address: What do you have to do to prepare a brand for extension? Does your brand need a refresh? Does its message need refining? Does it need a new marketing program? What does a brand have to consider and prepare for when entering a crowded marketplace? Is the brand ready for a consumer product program?

Clients can now look to Blueprint to develop a brand-building road map to open doors to new markets, audiences and revenue streams. And, if clients then wish to execute on the recommendation, they can work with the broader Beanstalk team to activate and actualize the brand building plan.

"To be successful today, companies need to do more than just tread water, they need to continually disrupt the market or risk becoming irrelevant," says Desir. "Brand extension through licensing is a low-cost and low-risk strategy for innovative incubation and disruptive growth. By formally establishing Blueprint, we are responding to a market need for the unique perspective we are able to offer, based upon our reputation and expertise as brand extension strategists and activators."

"With an increasing amount of information instantly available to consumers about brands, companies must be smarter about how they reach and speak to consumers," says Allison Ames, president, Beanstalk. "Brand extension and development strategies need to be well planned to satisfy consumers' expectations. Building on our years of successful execution experience, Beanstalk's Blueprint is credibly and uniquely positioned to provide clients with our knowledge and insights."

Beanstalk Launches New Online Tool

Blueprint, the brand consultancy division of global brand extension agency Beanstalk, has debuted the new Brand Extension Indicator.

The Brand Extension Indicator, or BXI, is a proprietary, customizable online tool that guides brand owners through the opportunity and partner selection processes. It utilizes quantitative and qualitative metrics in two key areas: fit with a brand’s equities and viability of entry into prospective market segments and suitability of partners under consideration.

“Brands are continually trying to understand how they can offer compelling new products and services in an increasingly fragmented and evolving retail landscape,” says Nicole Desir, executive director, Blueprint. “Based on the results provided by the BXI tool, clients can determine if they should pursue extension opportunities as well as work with our team to build out a more comprehensive strategy.”

BXI is ideal for organizations that have had some brand extension experience and are seeking to incorporate smart practices and better analytics as they evaluate opportunities on an ongoing basis. Utilizing a proprietary rating system tied to an assessment that is designed specifically for the individual needs of a brand owner, BXI creates a weighted recommendation about the quality and possible red flags of a otential brand extension and partner. By using the BXI interface, brand managers will now have a consistent methodology to evaluate proposed brand opportunities and determine whether they will likely deliver a positive impact on brand value and their business objectives.

On the Brand Horizon: Building Brand Equity in 2016’s Fast Evolving Landscape

It has been said innumerable times before: we live in an era of experimentation and transition. With an increasing amount of information instantly available by the simple click of a button, brands must be smarter about how they stay current in the minds of consumers. Brand extension, through licensing or other models, is a low-cost and low-risk strategy for innovation incubation and disruptive growth, enabling companies to engage with new customer groups while offering existing fans additional opportunities to experience and enjoy a brand. Nevertheless, extension into new categories is by no means a simple task and in my opinion, far too many brand owners make the mistake of thinking a high level of brand awareness is enough for a new proposition to succeed. Easily put, an extension has every chance of doing well if it brings value to consumers, if it offers a unique selling point which meets a so far unmet need in the market. In 2016’s faster-than-ever evolving landscape, companies need to evolve or risk becoming irrelevant.

In the consumer packaged goods (CPG) world, strategic brand extension is a tried and tested method for building brand equity, reaching new consumers and generating additional revenue.  There are myriad success stories, most notably The Coca-Cola Company’s venture into fashion apparel and accessories, home décor, and more recently, sustainable products under its Ekocycle label. What seems to be on the horizon in the coming year, however, is the translation of household CPG products into related consumer services, building on key equities of the core offer and offering consumers solutions that in one way or another enhance the overall brand experience. For example, laundry detergent brand, Tide, recently launched a branded home laundry pickup and delivery service in Chicago, building on the previous success of its dry cleaning service which opened in 2008. And elsewhere in the CPG sector, diaper brand Huggies is set to extend their reach into the child-care business, working in close collaboration with its long-standing licensing partner, Disney.[1] In fact, translating product based brands into services has proven an increasingly popular strategy in recent years, with yogurt brand Chobani opening a New York café, pasta maker Barilla a fast casual restaurant, and food and beverage corporation, Nestle, rolling out its ‘Toll House Café’ concept to 45 locations across North America and the Middle East — serving cookies, smoothies, and ice cream, the majority of which are made using the brand’s core products[2].strategic brand extension is a tried and tested method for building brand equity, reaching new consumers and generating additional revenue.  There are myriad success stories, most notably The Coca-Cola Company’s venture into fashion apparel and accessories, home décor, and more recently, sustainable products under its Ekocycle label. What seems to be on the horizon in the coming year, however, is the translation of household CPG products into related consumer services, building on key equities of the core offer and offering consumers solutions that in one way or another enhance the overall brand experience. For example, laundry detergent brand, Tide, recently launched a branded home laundry pickup and delivery service in Chicago, building on the previous success of its dry cleaning service which opened in 2008. And elsewhere in the CPG sector, diaper brand Huggies is set to extend their reach into the child-care business, working in close collaboration with its long-standing licensing partner, Disney.[1] In fact, translating product based brands into services has proven an increasingly popular strategy in recent years, with yogurt brand Chobani opening a New York café, pasta maker Barilla a fast casual restaurant, and food and beverage corporation, Nestle, rolling out its ‘Toll House Café’ concept to 45 locations across North America and the Middle East — serving cookies, smoothies, and ice cream, the majority of which are made using the brand’s core products[2].

On the opposite side of the spectrum, an increasing number of experience-driven brands, such as restaurants, hotels and fitness studios, seem to have realized the potential in extending their trademarks to physical products. Spinning sensation, SoulCycle – a definite frontrunner in recent years’ upscale fitness craze – has partnered with leading retailer, Target, for a co-branded, limited edition clothing collection as well as a pop-up spinning tour which will see the companies offer complementary cycling classes in ten different cities across the US[3]. Is the new project, revealed a mere six months after SoulCycle filed for its IPO, an indicator that the company is ready to extend into an even wider range of products? After all, Gold’s Gym, the American chain of international co-ed fitness centres, has successfully expanded into an array of categories under license, including training equipment and accessories as well as drinkware and food storage such as sports bottles and snack containers. A SoulCycle branded protein shake? Remember where you heard it first.

2015 saw a lot of interesting brand extensions, co-branded partnerships as well as other types of brand collaborations. Crayon brand Crayola teamed with Zelemark for a collection of adult jewelry. Yoga pant phenomenon, Lululemon, released a limited edition beer, partnering with a local independent brewery. Swarovski teamed up with Misfit, and Martian with Guess, creating two of many wearable technology offers in what unarguably became one of the most talked about categories of the year.

In 2016, I hope to see an even greater level of innovation in strategic brand extension. And if the first month of this year is anything to go by (Pizza Hut’s ‘Hut Swag’ clothing line certainly sounds interesting), I think that we will have more service brands extending into products and vice versa. A nail polish branded nail salon, perhaps? I can’t see why not.

Nicole Desir is the Executive Director of Blueprint – the dedicated consulting division of 20+ years established brand extension agency, Beanstalk.

 

[1] Brandchannel

[2] Eater

[3] Well and Good

Leafs By Snoop: Thoughts On Snoop Dogg’s Budding Enterprise

Snoop Dogg just launched his own line of cannabis products under the brand name Leafs by Snoop. The approach is interesting for a few reasons. First, it’s tied heavily to a content strategy the celebrity recently established with a website named MerryJane. Second, it’s a celebrity-backed foray into the emerging legalized marijuana market – a sort of “Wild West” for brands. Third, Snoop has taken a thoughtful, strategic approach to the branding and packaging of his new line which, by the way, can only be purchased at locations in Colorado.

I sat down with my colleague Nicole Desir, executive director ofBeanstalk’s consulting division, Blueprint, to talk it through. Following below are our thoughts.

Michael Stone: How does Snoop’s new Leafs by Snoop compare with other celebrity lifestyle brands such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP and others?

Nicole Desir: The first thing to note is that Leafs by Snoop is very authentic. It’s tied to a lifestyle that Snoop has had since his early days in the music and film industry. It’s linked to who he is and what he enjoys. It doesn’t feel like something that was created for the sole purpose of commerce.  When reading his Leafs website, it seems that he is genuinely trying to share his lifestyle.

Another aspect that is intriguing here is Snoop’s financial commitment. He’s investing in the site and product himself. He’s working with private equity – as are others like Willie Nelson with his own cannabis business, Gwyneth Paltrow with GOOP, and Jessica Alba with The Honest Company.  This is unlike other celebrity brands that are commonly brought to market through a licensing business model. This financial arrangement requires the celebrity to have a financial and personal stake in the brand.

Snoop is going about this venture very strategically.  Before introducing Leafs, he first launched MerryJane as a media site that promotes the cannabis lifestyle and culture, as well as a variety of brands in the space. In an age of content, it’s his content strategy that sets Snoop apart in what he’s done with MerryJane.  He is a strong representative of the cannabis lifestyle and the site is curated in that way. It focuses on a variety of topics and points of view, so it appeals to a larger base. Then two months after launching MerryJane, he introduced Leafs.  The way he’s going about doing this is methodical and well planned.

Snoop Dogg has long espoused a cannabis-friendly lifestyle. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Snoop Dogg has long espoused a cannabis-friendly lifestyle. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Stone: This is a completely new consumer market that didn’t exist a few years ago. Do the same rules apply when launching a product and assigning a celebrity’s name? Is there anything they should be doing differently?

Desir: Despite the newness of the market, and its outlaw history, this product line still requires that a celebrity ask the same questions: Is this a product category that’s aligned with me and the way I live my life? Is this a product category that fans and consumers will follow me into? What’s the level of risk for me to do this?  And, a kind of new question – are there any legal risks associated with the cannabis category of which I should be aware?  And, further, there are issues regarding trademark registrations, particularly federal registration, that need to be understood.

Stone: So there is risk?

Desir: There is risk for both the celebrity and his financial partners.  The celebrity will risk whether cannabis products will resonate with fans and consumers and whether it will change their affinity for him or her.  Will other business opportunities like endorsements and sponsorships be jeopardized?  Also, whether or not the celebrity is the right fit for this proposition, long term, is, of course, a risk for financial partners.  And, there are new laws and regulations that need to be considered.

In the case of the Leafs brand, if it were any other person – one who hadn’t espoused this lifestyle as directly as Snoop has – there could be a real risk in attaching their name to a very new industry that’s still illegal for recreational use in all but four states and in all states under federal law.  The level of reputational risk could certainly be higher for someone other than Snoop.

Stone: Then, could a more mainstream celebrity break into this industry?

Desir: We don’t see most celebrities wanting to take that risk today. Think of someone else who has recently created an e-commerce site – like Ellen DeGeneres.  At this point in time in the evolution of the marijuana industry, we don’t see Ellen attaching herself to marijuana products for the general population or for the audience that relates to her (in the few states where recreational use is legal).  That doesn’t mean that other celebrities, male and female, won’t enter the fray in the future.

Stone: Speaking of taboo, does it hurt or help the brand that Snoop’s long-term ties to the product itself harken back to actual illicit activities?

Desir: For us, there’s an authenticity in that history. He was involved in this lifestyle long before any type of legalization. The majority of product in the United States is still consumed as an unlawful activity, and to us that adds a level of genuineness to Leafs which is sold legally in Colorado.

Snoop isn’t saying, “I’ve spent the past year learning everything I can, and now I’m bringing it to you.” Marijuana has been part of his lifestyle for decades. In his long term consumption, he can position himself as a master and a connoisseur. He’s an expert and the consumer believes it.

Stone: How it’s being presented to consumers is really interesting too.

Desir: Right. We are very impressed by the packaging, the logo, the design elements, visual identity. In interviews, the designer has said that this is a field in which Snoop is indeed a connoisseur, and they wanted the product to look upscale and to appeal to all types of consumers.   The products, which include various strains of marijuana, chocolates, chews, gummies, and more, are packaged really beautifully.

But at the same time, they were trying to move away from some of the more expected imagery that would be associated with cannabis products. In doing so, they elevated it. They say they were inspired by the experience of unboxing an Apple product.

Stone: Is the visual approach in line with Snoop’s personal brand?

Desir: We don’t think anyone can tell you what a Snoop product is “supposed” to look like. The Snoop Dogg of the early ‘90s is different from the Snoop we know now. He’s more sophisticated and mature; his music has also evolved through the years.

He’s created a luxury-looking brand, a highly valued offering. The packaging designer intentionally moved away from a stereotypical and expected “Rasta, crunchy, outlaw” look that some might expect from a marijuana product. Consumers wouldn’t necessarily expect this type of packaging – it feels elegant. And that makes sense. The marijuana category is becoming very competitive in the markets where it’s legal. It speaks to Snoop’s business acumen that he’s going to great lengths to differentiate his line in this category.

It’s similar to the way we position a lot of celebrities in other lifestyle categories like beauty and fashion.  The concept is that a celebrity is saying to consumers: “Based on my experience, I’m going to bring you the best of the best.” And so I think it’s connected to who he is and how he relates to this product category.

Stone: So what’s the key takeaway in Snoop’s approach?

Desir: Like with all celebrity-backed products, the key is authenticity. And this is where Snoop really nails it.

The evolution of cannabis culture mirrors Hip Hop in many ways. It’s moving from a niche – almost an underground scene – to a worldwide popular movement, becoming legal state by state and mainstream.  And, although the product is now only available in Colorado, Snoop is smart to get a head start.  It’s just a matter of time before other states start legalizing recreational marijuana (in addition to Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have already done so) and Leafs will already be established as a successful brand, ready for expansion state-by-state.  Leafs by Snoop is a testament to a movement that is becoming increasingly popular and to Snoop’s business acumen and his ability to capitalize on that movement.