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When Brand Extension isn’t the Answer: Coors and Blue Moon

Friday, June 3, 2011 - 01:30

Brands are like people in the sense that they can be related to each other.  And like people, those associations can open doors or become a burden. I feel like this latter point if often missed when organizations consider rolling out a new product as a brand extension.

I recently put together a strategy presentation for a client to explore this topic using Coors Brewing Company as my example. I thought it might be of interest to those considering extending their brand.

Let me begin by explaining the concept of a brand extension.  It is essentially just adding another member of the family.  In this sense Coors Beer has a sibling in its counterpart Coors Light.  Like most family relations, they share a common DNA by leveraging the same basic moniker, logo and Rocky Mountain lineage. Similar as they are however, you can still tell the difference.  Coors is the ‘banquette beer’ with the golden label and the more mature voice. Coors Light is the ‘silver bullet’ with the younger, more jocular personality.

Coors and Coors Light both target a general beer drinking market at a low price point. Coors drives a pick-up truck and hunts deer. Coors Light watches NASCAR and paints its face for the football game.

Coors Light, The Silver Bullet

What most people don’t realize is that the Coors Brewing Company is also responsible for a line of wheat beers that fall into the Blue Moon brand family. The line consists of Blue Moon itself, and a number of sibling offerings such as Honey Moon, Harvest Moon and Winter Moon. The brand features a woodcut aesthetic, which seems intended to speak to a lovingly crafted, arty, micro-brew.

Blue Moon, Artfully Crafted

Blue Moon and its family are for the niche wheat beer drinking audience at a higher price point. Blue Moon drives a nice car, goes to gallery openings, and only watches the Super Bowl for the commercials.

Simply put, Blue Moon bears no resemblance to Coors and it is no accident. Coors wanted to speak to a broader audience than they could achieve by simply creating Coors Wheat. While Coors Light drinkers may graduate to drinking Coors as they age, Blue Moon drinkers are just different people.  In fact, using the Coors moniker would likely have served as an impediment.

So instead, Coors did what many company’s are not willing to do for their new offering.  They created a new brand. 

While such an endeavor requires a greater investment it could in time reap greater rewards. Now Blue Moon is its own source of brand good will and has spawned a family all its own. What’s more, most of its drinkers don’t even realizing they are supporting the Coors Company…something that might be politically anathema to them.

The moral of the story is that corporate relations should not always translate to brand relations. Ask yourself if your new product of offering is better served by leveraging your existing brand and audience, or by establishing a new one.


John Gavula
Contributed By John Gavula

John is the creative director of Gavula Design. He has provided design and illustrator services for many of New York and the region's biggest brand consultancies. Leveraging this experience, and his multidisciplinary background he now works closely with Gavula Design’s clients as a trusted branding partner and steward.