First of all, I need to reveal that I am pro-beer — in pretty much all situations. And that has colored my opinion here. And secondly, Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale sounds delicious.
But a lot of folks have wondered, “Is this a road too far?” Can an ice cream brand migrate into beer? And I think here the answer is a resounding, “yes.”
When thinking about brand stretch there are a few big things to consider. The first is “brand fit.” Usually this is about identifying things the brand does well that can credibly migrate to other offerings. Often this is bringing a signature attribute, benefit or image association to a new category. Coach, for example, began as a luxury handbag maker and then used its expertise in leather, and its equity in luxury, to credibly launch a line of high-end shoes.
In this case Ben & Jerry’s is leveraging its expertise as a “craft” food manufacturer and its expertise in creating unique flavor combinations to enter a category that is all about “craft” and unique flavors. Oh, and they both come in pints! Ha!
It can also help if your new offering is targeting the same consumers as your more established offering – because hey, they already know and like you, so they are going to be more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.
Now, this might be where some of the detractors feel that Ben & Jerry’s missed the mark – perhaps thinking that because it is an ice cream brand that it is “for kids.” But while ice cream is a kid-friendly category, Ben & Jerry’s is not a kid brand. It’s the stuff you hide from your kids. This is a brand that assumes you like satirical late night TV and have at least a passing knowledge of derivative Grateful Dead bands. That does not sound like a brand targeting the under-12 set to me.
And finally, and this one often gets overlooked, Ben & Jerry’s has a consumer base that is arguably more open to trying new things and perhaps seeing relationships between things that are a bit more conceptual or a bit more novel. At the end of the day, it’s about whether or not your consumer base will give you permission to go somewhere new – and some brands have consumer bases that are simply stingier than others on this count. I’m betting on the Ben & Jerry’s crowd to give this a chance.
And if this doesn’t work, maybe they could try Ben & Jerry’s craft toilet paper next. It could be Forest Stewardship Council certified – you know, just like Ben & Jerry’s…