A brand variant is commonly referred to as a brand extension. This is when an existing brand is used by a company to expand into additional product categories. The idea is to leverage a popular brand and positive image to diversify into other products.


Successfully launching a brand variant is more complicated than it may appear. Not only do you need a recognized and respected brand, your new offering needs to be viewed by your current or new customers as credible. If your brand is reputed for high quality, you can generally use that reputation to develop and market other high-quality product options in additional related categories.

Successful Examples

Successful brand variants result when a company aligns business goals, brand strengths and a desired product. Apple has maximized its popular brand image for innovation to extend from its origin in computers to digital music, mobile devices and portable electronic notebooks in the early 21st century. Starbucks used its premium quality reputation in coffee to extend into ice cream and to launch the Verismo single-cup home coffee system in late 2012.


Successful brands do fail with variants. A major obstacle for companies that achieve so much success with one product is convincing people to buy in to the brand in other categories. Kleenex and Xerox are iconic examples of brands so synonymous with their initial products, facial tissue and copy machines respectively, they struggled to extend. Xerox eventually fell to Canon, a competitor that was able to expand into digital cameras, photography and related products. Kleenex maintains other products, including hand sanitizer, but it is still known mostly as facial tissue. Another challenge is that a brand variant failure could tarnish the overall image of the brand.


A key to success with brand variants is your approach to marketing. Advertising and other promotions are key in getting out the word that your brand has developed another successful offering. In the case of Starbucks, the company used emails to target existing rewards program customers with messages about their extensions. In essence, along with traditional advertising to attract new buyers, Starbucks played on existing loyal customers for initial market penetration. As those customers bought the product, word of mouth created a viral impact.