How Far is Too Far for Brand Stretch?

A Trusted & Loved Brand
Arguably, Australia only has a handful of iconic brands; brands with a rich history and tradition, brands that are recognised, trusted, and understood by customers around the country. Goulburn Valley could well stake claim for being one of those brands. I grew up eating Goulburn Valley tinned peaches and pears for dessert. Mum trusted the brand to feed us kids, and that was good enough for me. Goulburn Valley earned a place in the hearts and minds of many hundreds of thousands of Australians.

As a brand, Goulburn Valley has always had a clearly proposition: fresh fruit – pears, peaches and apricots, grown by Australian Farmers, picked from the orchards around Goulburn, and canned in their own juices – sweet, syrupy goodness.

Waiter, There’s Some Milk in My Fruit
So Imagine my confusion the other day when I came across an add for Goulburn Valley flavoured milk. Flavoured milk? From Goulburn Valley? ‘Isn’t Goulburn Valley a fruit company?’ I heard my subconscious ask itself. ‘Isn’t Goulburn Valley all about sweet, syrupy peaches, pears and apricots? What’s all this about milk and banana and chocolate and iced coffee??!!’

Goulburn Valley Dair Co. packs

Stretching your Brand
Some brand extensions when launched make perfect sense, like the reality TV franchise ‘The Biggest Loser’ launching weight loss centers. The Biggest Loser has earned enough credibility in the weight loss space, that even from a starting-point of reality TV, I think they’d make a pretty good fist at helping the rest of the world lose weight. We wrote an article earlier this year about how effective brand extension can be as a business strategy when it’s done right. Then there are the other kind of brand extensions, the ones that make us go ‘Hmmmm, I’m not sure…’ For Goulburn Valley the tinned fruit people to make the brand stretch to Goulburn Valley the flavoured milk people was going to require an explanation.

The Stretch from Tinned Fruit to Flavoured Milk
One of the advantages of brands who have established an emotional connection as Goulburn Valley had with me over my childhood, is that they have points on the board. If they do something unexpected, something off-brand or disappointing, we’re far more likely to give them a second chance than we would with brands who lack the same level of relationship. So as uncertain as I was of Golbourn Valley’s foray into flavoured milk, I was looking forward to hearing the story that would connect their tinned fruit heritage to their new dairy drink expertise. What magic connection had Goulburn Valley identified that would have me believe their brand expertise would make that stretch?

I photographed the new billboards, I bought the product, I read the packs, I searched in vain for an explanation. The only clue I could find was a variation of the Goulburn Valley logo sporting the words ‘Dairy Company’. Now even as a brand professional who makes a living by designing brand marks, I know that just because your logo says ‘Dairy Co.’ doesn’t mean you can milk a cow.

What does Real taste taste like?
‘Get Real Taste’ the billboards told me. Goulburn Valley know a fair bit about the real taste of pears, peaches and apricots – but does that mean they know about the real taste of bananas, strawberries, chocolate and iced coffee? I bought the product, I tasted the product, take it from me, there’s nothing even remotely real about the taste of the banana, and strawberry flavours. Personally I’ve never bought flavoured milk for the ‘real fruit taste’, that’s kind of like buying a McDonalds hamburger for the taste of beef. When I buy flavoured milk, it’s for the ‘real taste’ of flavoured milk. And this new brand of flavoured milk from the folks at the Goulburn Valley Dairy Co. tastes, looks and smells pretty much the same as any other flavoured milk to me.

Goulburn Valley Dairy Co. Billboad

Get Real…
So has Goulburn Valley successfully transferred the brand equity of their tinned fruit expertise into their dairy venture? Not for this flavoured milk drinker. It seems the Goulburn Valley Dairy Co. has its work cut out to get a foothold in a tough market with powerful incumbent brands. In the wise words of the Greek woman who runs the corner milk bar: “We don’ sell much flavoured milk love. It’s very slow. I only sell a few Big Ms-a-day. I can’t sell another one. No-one will buy him.”

If you have an issue or an opportunity around how far is too far to stretch your brand, we’d be more than happy to have a chat about it and provide our professional perspective.

Dave Ansett, Brandamentalist.
If you’d like daily updates of our brand thinking, you can follow me on Twitter here.

26 Comments

  1. I must admit when I hear the word Goulburn Valley, I don’t think of dairy products at all. Im with David – I remember the days when I’d open my lunch box and pullout a snack size container of fruit. Yuuuummmmm!!!!!

    Flavoured milk maybe a sign of desperation or just a bad brand choice, whatever it is, flavoured milk for me is always going to be BIG M.

    Aria 🙂

  2. Reg, If the stretch wasn’t leveraging brand equity effectively, I wonder whether they would have been better off creating a new brand for Goulburn Valley Dairy Company – either that or maybe peach/pear/apricot flavours.

  3. I was talking to a friend recently and she admitted to being a lover of strawberry milk. The conversation moved onto the topic of Goulburn Valley. My friend mentioned that she had tried it and was in love! It was not like the artificial taste of a Big M but full of the flavour of natural strawberry goodness…just like a smoothy. Perhaps next time I won’t be so quick to judge.

  4. Katie, not being quick to judge is probably always pretty good advice. I personally tried the Goulburn Valley Strawberry flavour – and I gotta tell you, it tasted nothing like real strawberry. Sounds like your friend might have a soft spot for flavoured milk. But good on her for trying something new and even better if she becomes a brand ambassador.

  5. I associate Goulburn with country, real food, healthy, etc. so did give the drinks a try…unfortunately the chocolate flavour SUCKED and didn’t really offer anything new or different… used too much vegetable gum. The Strawberry did have a nicer Strawberry taste, still too (artificially) thick.

  6. Please tell me exactly what ‘real strawberry milk’ tastes like…? Mull some strawberries directly into milk and you’ll get a mouthful of seeds and not much taste. I took the brand cues to mean that the ingredients (flavours) come from real fruit rather than artificial ingredients… so there’s something true to the original brand identity. Perhaps the target market for this product should be MGBs with kids to feed who want to feed their kids dairy that tastes good without any nasties??

  7. Mia, Exactly right – what should the proposition have been here to both leverage-off the heritage and value of the GV brand and add differentiating value to the customer? Get the product to match and they’d have had a winner. Feels like an advertising solution to a product & brand problem

  8. I apparently have the difficult task of telling you all that Goulburn Valley now belongs to Coca-Cola Amatil…hence the corporate use of Goulburn’s well deserved good name and branding to expand, capitalise and profit. But then, that’s business, isn’t it?

    • Thanks Alex, Its always such a shame to see the authentic brand reputation earned through years of diligent work dissipated once the brand has been swallowed by a large corporate with a view dominated by the bottom line. That’s part of the reason why we love brands who take-on the big budget established players with smart, razor-sharp brand personality, brand design and brand gestures.

  9. Thanks Davo, we’re not stuck on who owns a brand, unless they dislocate it and its products from the authenticity of what the brand stands for. That’s when we get all steamed-up as it is a waste of brand meaning and reduces the ability to stand for something in the minds of the consumers. If it just came down to taste, selling beverages would be a completely different game – just ask Coke. On the other hand – can you let me know where I can get some – despite Coke’s leverage in the fridge, the shops around here have stopped stocking it.

  10. Well Dave I do respect your opinion but I don’t think they have dislocated the brand… maybe hyper extended it?!. The GV brand is built on honest authentic Australian farmed produce and I don’t think extending that to Dairy is too far personally.

    If you were an the Brand Manager @ GV and wished to branch out to Dairy for any reason from bottom line to the love of flavoured milk, how would you of done it differently?

    as far as buying, well good luck in Vic! not a big milk loving state. Any coles/woolies in NSW, WA or SA will stock this

    keep on blogging sir

  11. Thanks Davo, keep the thoughts and opinions coming.
    If I was brand manager @GV and considering flavoured milk as a product extension, the first thing I’d do is assess how effectively I could leverage our ‘healthy country, real fruit’ heritage. My suggestion would be that we just can’t deliver on that through a traditional flavoured milk product, and we’d either have to come-up with a new dairy product that could deliver on a real, fresh fruit promise (which couldn’t rightfully include banana) or else look elsewhere for new product innovation. Similar to full cream, indulgent dairy brand like King Island not being able to launch a low-fat, diet yogurt – the brand just doesn’t allow it.
    Thanks again, greatly enjoying the discussion.

  12. I’m sorry but I don’t agree with this. I happened to be at a function where they were offering samples of each flavour before the milk reached the shelves and I admit I wanted to go back for seconds.

    • Hi Brianna, great to have your views in the mix, although I’m afraid I’m not convinced. This is not a discussion about taste, but about whether this product line is a strong fir for the GV brand. As a brand built around the fruit of the Goulburn Valley, their claim the milk would be strongest when associated with a real, fresh fruit taste. That’s not to say you don’t find the taste delicious. The investment in extending a brand to a new line of products must not only make a return on sales of that profit, but also on building the long-term equity of the brand. I’m afraid the failure for this product line to become a fixture on supermarket and convenience store shelves is a reflection that the market as a whole has not embraced GV’s thinking on this brand extension.

  13. Guys, all I can say is that for me, Goulburn Valley produce has always been a symbol of quality and good taste . You only have to taste these lines of flavoured milk and I’m sure you’ll quickly agree that the other brands taste like cardboard in comparison….

  14. To relate my previous comment to brand extension, I believe that product association only stretches so far. After that, it becomes a paradigm. The mere fact that Goulburn valley have been in the market for so long selling good quality products means that in a way, new products (regardless of their similarities to traditional products) are automatically received under this banner. This is also a two edged sword, as and failure in delivering the promise of quality that is expected can be almost excused, as the product is removed enough from the original product. On the other hand, if the product is received positively, it will simply be added to the mix of quality products that we expect. I do believe this has been achieved by GV quite successfully in this instance. Again I say…YUM !!!!

    • Great to have your comments in the mix Clint, you’re obviously a big fan of Goulburn Valley. You’ve also got a good grasp of marketing – feels like we’re in the same industry. I do have to disagree though that a long history of good quality products provides an open license to extend the brand to any product. I differ just as much in the view of what happens if the product is successfully received by the market. The risk for a brand extension that runs contrary to what the brand stands for in the minds of the market, is that success will muddy the meaning of the brand. I remain concerned that a brand which has build its reputation on fruit can also be known for dairy. Our work with the King Island Dairy brand over more than a decade was based on the principle that the brand made traditional, indulgent dairy products. There is now way we would have recommended they expand their product line into fruit – tinned or otherwise.

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