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What Do Brand Line Extensions Have to Do with Your Career?


You may be asking, what are line extensions? Well, the next time you go to the grocery store or Walgreens, take a look at the toothpaste aisle.

What do you see?

The reason I picked toothpaste is that I had to buy some a few weeks ago, and I was left confused and overwhelmed.

Crest had three rows, Colgate had two rows, and the bottom row was every other brand.

There were more choices of Crest toothpaste than I have teeth in my mouth.

I’m not sure how many different kinds of fresh taste combined with whitening most people need, but for me, it’s less than two.

I can’t even tell you what I ended up picking, and I use it every day. That’s how little it mattered.

Companies use line extensions as a way to capture more market share; often, this dilutes the brand and its promise compared to competitive alternatives in the market.

What I typically see with toothpaste (and beer), is that it’s also used as a defensive tactic. This massive portfolio of line extensions allows them to take up more space on store shelves (and in digital search results) which means less room for competitors.

If a big company is willing to go through the expense of making essentially the same thing in different colors and packaging just to take up space on grocery store shelves and e-commerce search results, then that’s what they’ll do.

It can dilute their brand because people become confused about what they stand for and the promise they’re making. When it comes to beer, what is Budweiser promising by offering Bud, Bud Light, and alcoholic seltzer water?

Do you think their hard seltzer better than a company that does only hard seltzer? Maybe. But I doubt it. They just get to leverage their massive distribution and supply chain muscles.

What does this have to do with your career?

As some of us go through our career and we pivot from one thing to another, what promise are we making about our skills and experience?

Are we just a collection of small amounts of experience and underdeveloped skills in any particular area?

Or does the diverse experience come together to create something unique and valuable?

For example, I was a corporate recruiter before I made a complete transition to digital marketing. I built my digital marketing experience and skills through side projects until I could fully make the leap.

Is it possible that my 12+ years of recruitment experience, when combined with over a decade of digital marketing experience, creates something unique and valuable? I think so. But, what matters is if it actually translates to something valuable for others.

In his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport referred to this as career capital.

Have you built career capital through your diverse experience?

If so, how do you plan to tap into it and use it in a way that provides value to others and, ultimately, helps them solve a particular problem or set of problems?


Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash