By Mylena Vazquez
In the words of Elle Woods, Cosmopolitan Magazine—or Cosmo, as it’s more commonly referred to—was once hailed as “the bible” for women. It’s been referenced in more teen movies and TV shows over the years than perhaps any other magazine. Its focus is on fashion and entertainment, with fashion tips, celebrity news, sex advice columns, and the notorious relationship quizzes gracing its glossy pages.
With its soaring success and loyal base, Cosmopolitan decided to branch out of the magazine world and into clothing, glasses, watches…and dairy. In 1999, Cosmo decided to launch Cosmopolitan Yogurt, a series of flavored low-fat yogurts aimed at the target audience of its magazine: women, ages 15–44.
Marketing Week cited the reason for this puzzling venture as Cosmo’s desire to “extend the Cosmopolitan brand into the health food sector,” though perhaps the motivation was a little less pure: to capitalize on the incredibly strong diet culture of the era, something which the magazine itself promoted. For this product extension, Cosmopolitan Magazine banked on its figure-conscious consumers to read a Cosmo column about dieting and suddenly crave the magazine’s branded yogurt. The Guardian, on the other hand, claimed five years later that Cosmo’s motivation for the launch was to “link food with sex,” since a survey they conducted “found that 65% of Britons had used food during lovemaking.”
Regardless of the reasoning, by early 2001, just 18 months after Cosmopolitan Yogurt had been introduced into the market, the line was pulled off the shelves due to poor sales. This did not bode well for Cosmo’s other, grander brand extension plans, which included opening a series of “lifestyle centers” aimed at advising women on “exercise, nutrition and emotional problems.” In short, the extension was a total fail.
In this case, Cosmopolitan Yogurt did not provide consumers a reason to believe. Not only does the idea of a magazine-branded yogurt sound strange, but the yogurts were priced above the average in a market oversaturated with competition. Cosmopolitan made a serious miscalculation in the strength of its parent brand in launching a product so far removed from their main area of expertise. Just because a brand’s target audience shares a similar characteristic or has a shared affinity for a certain lifestyle does not mean that that brand should extend itself to include products so far beyond their scope. And the proof is in the pudding. Cosmopolitan’s eyewear and clothing lines are still going strong today, while its yogurt venture has been relegated to merely being written about in articles like this one about the greatest failures in brand extension history.
In your opinion, what has been the greatest brand extension failure in recent history?