Social Media, the rapidness in which we (Millennials in particular) consume content, and the sheer amount of content being thrown at us every single day has created an era in which brands crafting a well thought-out and carefully crafted message in the form of an advertising campaign or TV spot is just not enough for most… in other words, you need something extra to help you break through the clutter and cut through the noise if you want to be seen as “cool” – and it’s starting to get weirder and weirder (or, more innovative, depending on how you look at it). 

Product and brand extensions are not a new thing, but, they are becoming more commonplace and off-the-wall than ever before. Millennials and their love for social media helped fuel this “brand extension” arms race and get us where we are right now. 

Just within the past month, we’ve seen  KFC teaming with Crocs for a special edition, chicken bucket sandal (fried-chicken scented, of course), branded McDonalds Quarter Pounder ingredient candle sets, and, just in time for Valentines Day, Pepsi unveiled a Crystal Pepsi branded engagement ring (could you imagine being proposed to with one of these, ladies??). 

brand extensions crystal Pepsi ring

Not joking here. Crystal Pepsi was boiled down to its most basic carbon form, ground into a powder, then added in to the process of making a 1.53-carat, lab-grown diamond. This “stunt” was luckily just a stunt, though, as part of a larger social media based contest in which a winner will be announced via social media, (naturally) just in time for “National Proposal Day” on March 20th. 

Additionally, Oreo has decided to team up with streetwear brand Supreme (something it seems like every brand and their mother wants to do right now) for a special edition Supreme Oreo that features the brand’s signature red/white color combo, complete with the Supreme logo right where the Oreo logo would be. It looks tasty. But, no one will be eating these… 

And, for brands, it’s working! Which keeps them on their toes thinking of the next crazy thing that might help them cut through the clutter. Just to help illustrate just how popular and crazy the demand is for some of this stuff, a 3-pack of these Supreme Oreo cookies RMSPd for $8, but, you can’t buy them through retail and longer. they sold out, of course! If you really want some though, place your bid: there have been bids as high as nearly $90,000 on eBay!

supreme Oreo brand extensionsIt’s all part of our current culture in which brands’ broader want/need to be included in the pop-culture conversation – part of a continuous cycle that’s been going forever (in some form or another) – has been accelerated by Millennials’ tastes and the popularity of social media and free press as a marketing tool. 

Here’s a rough outline of how the cycle works for brand extensions: 

First, a brand makes something “extra” or does some kind of cool stunt to help stand out and set itself apart (to cut through the noise) in order to try to be included in the broader pop-culture conversation. If the people “approve”, it’s able to join the “cool kids club” and ride the wave of free press and internet stardom while it lasts. If it fails, it risks becoming seen as a laughing stock. It can backfire, and the brand is seen as not with the times, or irrelevant (very “un-cool”, man).

Of course, this world of wackiness is just the current iteration of the whole process. Sometime in the future, novelty fatigue will be upon us, and sooner or later, we’ll be seeing these types of brand extensions and promotional products appearing at yard sales and collectible stores galore. Just like we’ve seen in the past with things like branded t-shirts and mugs. 

What’s next, no-one quite knows yet. But, one thing is for sure: it’s getting crazier and crazier (or, more and more innovative, if you look at it that way), and millennials and social media are helping to keep the arms race going at a faster pace than ever before.