I’ve loved everything about Shinola (www.shinola.com) since they launched with a commitment to be of, by and for Detroit. The superb watchmaker has played a small, but highly visible, role in MoTown’s slow, but sure, revival. How’s that for a higher purpose?
But, as is often the case with successful brands, Shinola is rapidly losing track of what prompted their early success and, veering badly off course to make long-time brand advocates such as me begin to scratch our wrists and heads.
Case in point, Shinola (whose quality of leather in products ranging from wallets and briefcases to wrist bands and all sorts of unique bling) is nonpareil, just introduced a real doozie of a new product.
Hold for it.
Now available just in time for the holiday shopping season? What else but a handsome, all-leather version of the popular board game Monopoly? I say again, a leather-bound version of Monopoly. Now who at Shinola was ingesting what type of edible when this was declared a great line extension?
It’s laugh out loud absurd. With a market correction looming large on the horizon who, but a few one-percenters and Oval Office occupants, would possibly plunk down hundreds and hundreds of dollars for something like this?
And trust me, the Monopoly board isn’t the first truly bizarre line extension from Shinola.
The entrepreneurial super nova is at the cusp of eroding their incredible brand loyalty with this sort of nonsense. Is it over confidence? Hubris? Are they channeling P.T. Barnum’s belief “…there’s a sucker born every minute?”
Regardless of their intent, misery loves company and lord knows Shinola wouldn’t be the first brand to lose its way.
Beginning with the ill/fated New Coke disaster of the early 1980’s, consider these ill-conceived brand extensions from the past:
1.) In an attempt to compete with Apple’s dominant iPod MP3 player, Microsoft released the Zune in 2006. As of November 15, 2015, Microsoft discontinued all streaming, downloading, and other music services for the Zune. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009, Microsoft recorded a 42% decline in revenue in its non-gaming devices segment — a decline largely attributable to the Zune’s poor performance. While the device might have been a reasonable choice for consumers, a number of reported bugs did not help sales. On December 31, 2008, most if not all 30GB Zunes stopped functioning simply because the underlying code had failed to account for the extra day in leap years.
2.) Zippo made a perfume in a bottle shaped like a giant lighter:
And I would be less than transparent in not adding that Peppercomm has made more than one ill-conceived brand extension in our 25-year history ranging from a dotcom that opened exactly when the tech bubble burst, a licensing firm intended to provide us with new points of entry into major brands that, well, never did. A sales offering that combined the best practices of media training to help sales forces “win” biz dev pitches (but didn’t). And then there were a few acquisitions that, well, let’s just say, those were our versions of the Shinola Monopoly board.
I’ve become very gun shy of line extensions and now make sure we carefully incubate a new service before bringing it to the market.
Our Peppercomm team’s outstanding Purpose Stress Test is a great example. I bet we “tested” our stress test with at least 10 Fortune 500 CCO’s before we were confident enough to believe we were adding a smart extension to our service offering.
Oh, and one other thing for those of you who have never heard the expression, “You don’t know sh*t from shinola.” It was a term popularized by G.I.’s in WW I and directed at, who else, but their commanding officers. 😎
So, caveat marketer and agency owner alike, the line extension you may be salivating to announce could very well be the first step in eroding customer loyalty in an era when loyalty rivals fresh water and honesty as our scarcest commodity.