Diana Kelter
Diana is a Senior Trend Analyst at Mintel. She investigates how cultural, lifestyle and technology shifts take shape across sectors and leverages Mintel data across trend observations.

Mintel has been at the forefront of predicting the trends that matter most, calling them early and accurately, over the last 15 years. In our series, You Heard It Here First, we take a look at some of the predictions that we’ve made and where they are today.

It’s not uncommon (and almost expected) to learn about a brand expanding into new categories, such as Lululemon’s recent move into the personal care space. Mintel started noticing early patterns of brand extension in early 2011 with the creation of Mintel trend ‘Extend My Brand.’

Here, we take a closer look to identify the patterns that led Mintel to believe ‘Extend My Brand’ would be a trend to watch and how it has evolved alongside other Mintel Trends.

Social media set the tone

Social media has revolutionized how we engage with one another, but it also flipped a switch for brand perception. In 2011, brands quickly realized they were showcasing their products in the same social feed as family and friends – meaning content had to be viewed through a lifestyle lens. According to Mintel research on social networking, 41% of US social media users said they followed or liked a brand on social media. It’s this basis that set a foundational tone for the ‘Extend My Brand’ trend to take off because once a brand leads with lifestyle, it leaves the door open for product and category expansion in a manner that never previously existed.

‘Experience culture’ followed

‘Experience culture’ became a clear hallmark of the Millennial generation and Mintel similarly documented its rise with the Mintel Trend ‘Experience is All.’ With Millennials prioritizing experiences over things, brands had to find strategic opportunities to prioritize experiences, often leading to expansion into experiential categories, such as food and travel.

Milk Bar bakery leveraged strategic brand expansion as a way to build consumer recognition long before the bakery started expanding its footprint beyond the East Coast. In 2014, Christina Tosi, the head baker behind Milk Bar, partnered with Estée Lauder to create an Estée Lauder Perfume cookie.

Expansion primarily focused on limited-time brand expansions, and while that is still a common trend, as the retail landscape became more competitive the desire to expand in a more permanent manner gradually took shape.

Niche culture becomes mainstream culture

Everything comes full circle. The e-commerce shift gave way for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands to emerge without any brick-and-mortar presence, and social media became the critical channel for building awareness and loyalty. According to Mintel research on online shopping, 44% of US online shoppers say that their favorite online retailers feel like friends and DTC companies have played a key role in creating that identity. Direct-to-consumer brands that seemingly came out of nowhere were suddenly forcing legacy brands to shake up their products, and ultimately find expansion opportunities. However, brand expansion doesn’t always have to be as dramatic as completely entering new industries, but rather building off a current presence in new ways. For example, Whole Foods launched its first convenience store model in New York in April 2019. This creates new opportunities for the brand without dramatically changing course.

It’s not just recent DTC brands that have altered how consumers think about legacy brands, but the impact of startups that gradually gained mainstream attention. Hotels are realizing they must compete more directly as Airbnb has consistently taken away market share. In April 2019, Marriott announced a home sharing pilot that would be offered in the US that originally launched in Europe. The expansion allows Marriott to bring some of the basic luxuries hotels offer into the comfort of a home share model.

Today’s wellbeing impact

Toward the end of 2018, Mintel predicted wellbeing would be a dominant topic and made ‘Total Wellbeing’ a Global Consumer Trend for 2019. Wellbeing not only became a key topic for 2019, it also set a key framework for brand expansion. More brands quickly realized that wellbeing has a role to play in all industries. According to Mintel research on health management trends, 42% of US consumers are put a lot of emphasis toward their emotional wellbeing, and that is a key space more brands are prioritizing.

Dyson started prioritizing the wellbeing space in 2019 with the launch of a product called Lightcycle, designed to coordinate with a user’s circadian rhythm to optimize a sleep routine. Fitness studios are expanding beyond traditional definitions of fitness and Equinox announced the launch of its first hotel that encompasses various aspects of wellbeing, such as on-site sleep coaches. Food and drink is also expanding into new directions, and with beer facing increased competition, one brand called Sufferfest created a beer specifically designed for consumption after a workout. In 2019, the brand was acquired by Sierra Nevada setting the stage for national expansion.

What’s next?

Wellbeing is going to continue setting the tone for brand expansion as more brands realize they have a role to play in this space. However, the next evolution of ‘Extend My Brand’ will largely be shaped by Gen Z in the same way Millennial habits set the tone early on for this trend. According to Mintel research on marketing to Gen Z, 59% of US Gen Z adults aged 18-24 say they care if a brand represents their values. Expansion that is rooted in values will be a critical area of importance for the next generation of consumers.