Branding permission

Picture of Tom Dougherty
Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

19 October 2020

A case study in branding permission: Mucinex and Sickwear

Branding permission can be a strange thing. It may look like audiences give you the OK to move into another category. Based on your brand meaning. But it’s actually more complicated than that.

When FedEx and Kinko’s merged more than 10 years ago, it made sense. Especially from a brand perspective. Both brands meant conducting business as easily and quickly as possible. Today, we have FedEx Office because of it.

branding permissionThen there’s something like Mucinex coming out with…flu wear. You heard that right. The brand’s owner, Reckitt Benckiser (RB), is re-establishing the Mucinex brand as a health and wellness one. So that brings up a new question concerning branding permission.

Does Sickwear, the brand name for that wear, actually have permission to be under the Mucinex brand?

Intellectually, you answer yes. Mucinex, the brand for cold and flu remedies, is a health brand. Comfortable wear while you are sick would seem, to the right brain side of things, to be in Mucinex’s health wheelhouse.

But emotionally, it’s all wrong. The branding permission at play here is about feeling better. Getting rid of nasty phlegm while you recover. Represented by the animated Mr. Mucus in Mucinex’s TV ads.

In its press release, RB says: “This entirely new concept in clothing comes from the innovative business mind of Cynthia Chen, president, North America at RB, whose keen insight into consumers has always guided her to the belief that in order to feel good, it helps to look good.”

Again, intellectually yes. Emotionally, no.

“What RB forgets in this branding permission case are the emotional drivers in this market space. People don’t prepare for the flu. (Other than getting the shot.) They don’t expect to be sick. So they certainly aren’t going to buy Sickwear ahead of getting sick.”

Consider emotional drivers in branding permission

What RB forgets in this branding permission case are the emotional drivers in this market space. People don’t prepare for the flu. (Other than getting the shot.) They don’t expect to be sick. So they certainly aren’t going to buy Sickwear ahead of getting sick.

And, when they are ill, they want to forget about it and move on as soon as possible. It’s not something you want to broadcast to the world with, yes, a large silhouette of Mr. Mucus on the back.

The first step when considering a different category for your brand is the intellectual one. Does it make sense? In this case, it does.

The second thing to consider, though, is does it align with the most emotionally intensive drivers in the market? Does it fulfill an emotional need?

You uncover that through projectable, quantitative research. Test precepts, those belief systems that power behavior. In this case, the branding permission tells us that looking good while sick is not an emotional driver.

See more posts in the following related categories: Brand permission

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