Cultural brand extension: How can brands succeed in brand extension from a cultural branding viewpoint?

Christian Lund Madsen

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

This thesis focuses on how three cultural branding theories compare to each other and to the more traditional brand essence philosophy. Furthermore the findings of this analysis form the foundation upon which the case of the Lego Group’s brand extension into the world of consumer robotics – the Lego Mindstorms product line - will be analyzed. The first part of the thesis is a discussion of the cultural branding theories of Grant McCracken, Douglas B. Holt and Claus Buhl. These theories oppose the principles of the brand essence philosophy as propagated by Jean-Noël Kapferer. The cultural branding theories employ an ‘outside-in’ perspective on how companies performs branding, where the contextual and cultural environment plays a crucial role in deciding the success or failures of given branding ventures. The brand essence theory on the other hand argues of an ‘inside-out’ attitude towards branding; focusing the brand holding company’s marketing resources on repeating a specific brand identity to the consumers. The second part of the thesis employs the principles of cultural branding to analyze the background and development of one of the Danish toy manufacturer the Lego Group’s most successful brand extension; the Lego Mindstorms robotics toolset product line. Initially launched as a close extension to the original Lego sets, the Lego Mindstorms ended up attracting adult robot hobbyists who saw the omnipresent Lego-brick and the included programmable brick as a perfect vehicle for establishing a standard in amateur robotics construction; making knowledge and robotics sharing far more accessible. Furthermore the Lego Group’s collaboration with MIT – the global powerhouse-university for robotics and artificial intelligence – legitimized the Lego Mindstorms as authentically rooted in the constructionist ethos adhered to by the robot hobbyists who demanded a tool to address their need for tangible outputs of creative, intangible inputs. The Lego Mindstorms division had become exponents of the idea of constructionism through a steadfast director insisting on involving the most zealous robot hobbyists in the development of the new generation of Lego Mindstorms launched in 2006. Based on the analysis, it would seem that the insiders of an ethos comparable to that of a company’s can be engaged in product development and brand extension, where they – apart from their technical expertise on a given product market – can supply authenticity and legitimize the company’s claim of truly adhering to a relevant ethos.

EducationsMSc in International Marketing and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2010