I recently found myself traveling alone in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and one thing I did not find was a lot of English being spoken. I wanted to explore as much of the beautiful city’s delicious food, vivacious culture and signature caipirinha cocktails as possible with my short, two-day stay. Zipping around in a cab would have been the most efficient way to see everything, but my subpar Portuguese communication skills severely limited my ability to do so – or so I thought.

My interest was piqued by the recently launched UberENGLISH, which lets users in Rio de Janeiro request Uber drivers who are proficient in the English language. The city is second in a Latin America rollout of the ride-sharing app’s partnership with language-learning platform Duolingo. Both riders and drivers can benefit from the collaboration: tourists have chance to snag a linguistically certified driver with whom they can proficiently converse, and English-speaking drivers are promised the chance to earn more money.

Brand extensions like this one are not a new concept, but the Mintel Trend Extend My Brand explores the fresh opportunities – new markets, new demographics, even new categories – that other trusted brands can uncover when they leverage their existing reputation among more discerning post-recession consumers.

Like Uber and Duolingo, we’ve seen other brands partner up to seek out new territories that align with the essence of their offerings.

  • Food and drink brands are looking to other niches within their broader space. General Mills, for example, collaborated with Fulton Beer to create a Wheaties-branded hefeweizen beer, HefeWheaties, named after the German style that uses wheat as its base.
  • German rail operator Deutsche Bahn is now allowing travelers to purchase their train ticket and a daily car rental in one transaction. The company partnered with car rental firm Flinkster to allow long-haul train passengers to book an electric vehicle that will be waiting for them when they arrive at their destination station.

Brands are also finding success in striking out to help make consumers’ day-to-day lives easier in entirely different ways, allowing those brands to construct new pillars of trust and reliance.

  • In Chicago, Tide Co. has launched Tide Spin, a service that offers wash-and-fold home laundry pick-up, as well as drop-off dry cleaning, with no delivery fee or minimum order.
  • UK retailer Tesco is set to trial a ‘Pet Den’ at its Cardiff store, which will allow customers to get their pets groomed while they do their grocery shopping.

Creating or improving physical spaces can deepen a brand’s connection with consumers by providing a venue for people to interact with both products and each other.

  • In Mexico City, Nescafé will open its own chain of cafés and range of coffee carts and trucks.
  • Gap has partnered with Lion Coffee & Records to launch food, coffee and weekly live performances in its Oxford Street store in London. This pop-up will be situated on the ground floor of Gap’s flagship store.

We’ve also seen a number of brands get into categories that may, at first, seem totally incongruous, but doing so gives them a divergent way to test the waters in a new area for the purposes of self-promotion or sheer survival. Distrust in the banking sector, for example, has opened the doors for some dependable retailers and tech companies to begin offering financial services. Elsewhere:

  • Canadian athletic apparel brand Lululemon has partnered with Vancouver’s Stanley Park Brewing to launch a summer beer called Curiosity Lager.
  • Car manufacturer Fiat partnered with Glamour magazine to create a two-day beauty festival in London.
  • The UK’s Gatwick Airport now has its own gin distillery and signature gin.
  • In Colombia, Chrysler has launched its own online radio station to allow listeners to experience true Detroit soul.
  • The owner of UK airline easyJet has opened theeasyFoodstore, a budget grocery store where everything has been priced at mere cents.

It makes sense that when money is tight, consumers are more likely to scrutinize where their dollars are spent. In the process, they’re less likely to turn away from brands that feel familiar and provide a sense of comfort in knowing where those hard-earned dollars will end up.

As such, businesses that have a distinct selling point in one sector have the potential to branch out into others – as long as the company’s voice, message and character are not lost in the expansion.

Stacy Glasgow is a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. Stacy joined Mintel in 2013 bringing with her an exciting blend of CPG, agency and marketing experience. Her time is spent traveling the US engaging clients across global CPG, Beauty and Financial Services in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.

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