Miller has paid an enormous price for its countless line extensions over the years. Miller could have been the number one brand of beer in the U.S.
Miller Lite was the first light beer in the mind. But instead of giving its new light beer a powerful new brand name, Miller Brewing chose a terrible generic name, Lite.
To compound the error, the verbal confusion between 'Lite' and 'light' forced the company to rebrand its new light beer Miller Lite.
Who hands a bartender their order written on a napkin? Verbally, Lite and light are indistinguishable. Tragic.
There's another problem, too. When you saddle a beer with a diet word like light, you undermine its manliness. Miller made multiple mistakes all at once and it has cost them dearly.
-- Laura Ries, Warning: Massive line extension can kill you
I've loved the Ries branding ideas since reading The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding several years ago. Al Ries invented product positioning, which goes hand-in-glove with the concept of the USP -- the Unique Selling Proposition -- that Rosser Reeves pushed. I've been reading the original Reeves "Reality in Advertising" from 1960 (sparked by a comment here) and his points about the USP and penetration in advertising totally agree with the Ries "own a word in the mind of the customer" rules on branding. Between Reeves and Ries you take away rules like trying to push two or more features in a production position will lead to disaster. You can have a successful product with a main feature you're communicating, but then add another benefit to your messaging, and end up communicating neither credibly, and muddling your brand image in the process and losing share. USPs fell out of favor after Reeves but the case studies they present all ring true to me. Time to bring back the USP.