What are they thinking with this brand extension?

I assume many of you are familiar with Cintas. They are synonymous with uniforms and have spent many years and lots of money creating that position in customers’ minds. Apparently somebody made a strategic decision to have the company enter the fire protection and security business. While that seems a stretch, I am not going to second guess their over-arching business strategy as I don’t have enough information. And besides, they already have offerings unrelated to uniforms, so this new one is not necessarily strategically misaligned. However, their branding strategy is another story.

 Yesterday I heard a radio ad for Cintas’ new fire protection and security business. The entire ad was focused on getting the listener to equate Cintas with fire protection and security. I guess if you have never heard of Cintas they have a chance. But then there is no reason to pick that name. Conversely if you already know them for uniforms, what brand equity do they possibly think they are carrying over? Ries and Trout wrote about the fallacy of brand extension decades ago and Al Ries is still preaching it today.

You can argue that Cintas has already “brand extended” into many other areas and they are not known specifically for uniforms anymore. Great, in other words, they aren’t known for anything. Ries and Trout have shown countless examples of companies that lost their #1 position by brand extending.

You’d think people would know this already and the preaching would no longer be necessary. Apparently not. What are they thinking trying to brand extend Cintas into fire protection and security?

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