easyGroup seem set to continue their "brand ego trip": launching new products that lack relevant differentiation and added value for the consumer. I thought the launch of easy4men cosmetics was bad, but now there is, wait for it.... easyWatch. Yes, that's right. They expect us to chuck out our Swatches and proudly walk around with a bright bit of orange easyGroup plastic instead. And the news in Marketing that they are hunting for a managing director of licensing suggests there is even more where this came from.
easyGroup's problem is that they seem to have forgotten what made them famous. Their first launch, easyJet, was by far their most successful. The recipe for this success behind this service was summarised by easyGroup founder and CEO Stelios himself in a talk to INSEAD alumni:
i) Pick a big market that is price sensitive, but where pricing is high => e.g. airlines
ii) Cut out the frills => e.g. no reserved seats, no free drinks
iii) "Out-source to the consumer" => e.g. book yourself online
iv) Use "elastic' pricing" to increase capacity utilisation => e.g. pay less for early booking
iv) use the cost savings to make BIG cuts in headline prices => e.g. "London to Paris for only £39"
The few extensions that have stuck to this model have done well: easyCar, easyCruise and easyHotel. It also helps that these are all related to travel and tourism. However, easyGroup have ditched this magic formula and developed a new set of brand (mis-)guidelines that basically reduce the easy brand to being a "cheap challenger" brand; a bit like Virgin, but without Branson's irreverent emotional values. So, anything cheap goes, and we now have a long list extensions that are doomed to be dwarfs: easyCinema (one opened, then closed), easy4men (about to be de-listed according to Marketing), easyWatch, easyPizza etc.
These extensions don't offer the opportunity to cut frills, out-source, use elastic pricing and make headline-grabbing price-cuts. Take easy4men deodorant. Apart from advertising, there are limited frills to take out and you can't outsource anything to the consumer. So the price saving versus leading brands is limited, and not enough to make you switch, especially on something important as smelling good, not sweaty (and would you want that orange pack in your bathroom?) And anyway, if you want cheap male cosmetics, they exist in the form of retailer own label (see below). And easyWatch, well its just surreal. The watch your wear is a fashion statement, and one thing that the easy brand definitely does not have is fashionability. Virgin Jeans died, and this one is set to join it in the brand extension graveyard.
I have huge admiration for Stelios, who has more money and more balls than I, or you, will ever have. However, his brand stretch strategy, or rather lack of it, is not an example to follow. easyGroup extensions are opportunistic gambles that take his fancy, not a disciplined programme of strategic moves. I'm trying to set up a meeting with him or at least his head of corporate affairs to get their view, so watch this space!
5 minute workout: what made your brand famous (benefits, product truths, business models etc.)? Are you still applying this recipe for success, or have you walked away from it?