Hate the Porsche Cayenne? You’ll feel sick when you hear about the Lamborghini SUV.

Should Moet start selling lemon squash?

It seems like the answer may be yes. Brands that once zealously guarded their integrity are now stretching for brand extensions every which way.

Porsche – which some grey-beards in the audience may know as a sports car company – now sells more big four-wheel drives than speedy two-seaters. The Cayenne SUV shifted 42,000 units last year, compared to 13,000 of the “cheap” Boxster sportscar and 16,000 of the “classic” 911 range.

But how long until the excitement of driving a Porsche wears off? At $220,000, the Porsche Cayenne does not top any category. You can get a real Porsche for less, and you can pay a lot less for a perfectly good Range Rover that has real four-wheel-drive capability.

Porsche can obviously tell it is in a goldmine, and they have a plan. A new obnoxious Porsche SUV, the Macan, will be released in 2014.

Porsche Macan
If you’re thinking: “Wow! what a radical redesign!” You probably have never seen a Porsche Cayenne.

It is smaller and even less expensive than the Cayenne, with a base model coming in at $87,000. The motoring press is pretty enthused about it, but when Porsche is competing with the Nissan patrol ($82,000) that sends a message about Porsche to the market.

When you make a brand extension like this, you sacrifice some buyers for others. The hardcore sports car enthusiast views your product more dimly. The middle-of-the-road consumer’s eyes light up. Whether that is a good idea in the short run is a matter of simple mathematics. Do you lose more customers than you gain?

But long-term, there’s a bigger risk. Pierre Cardin was once a luxury clothing brand in the vein of Hermes. Then it went wild.

From the Harvard Business Review.

“Initially, the brand extensions into the perfumes and cosmetics categories were successful because the premium degree of the Pierre Cardin brand transferred undiminished into the new, adjacent categories. The owners of Pierre Cardin, unfortunately, attributed this to the strength of the brand rather than to the brand’s fit with the new product categories.”

I have a Pierre Cardin dressing gown that I believe came from Target. While it is terrific in its way, the brand impression I now have means I would not buy a Pierre Cardin suit.

Image

iSnack2.0 was an example of a bad brand extension. Not because Vegemite is too fancy to go into other products but because iSnack2.0 filled a niche that no customers lived in.

Jack Daniels and cola in a can is a good example of a brand extension. Laphroaig whisky and cola in a can would be a bad brand extension. What matters is not just the quality of the ensuing product, but how important exclusivity and purity was to the brand in the first place.

That’s why the fact that Lamborghini is preparing an SUV for launch is such a shock. Lamborghini is the quintessence of hand-made cars that cost an absolute fortune. Existing Lambo owners who paid around $600,000 to get their hands on the badge may not be too happy about the emergence of a Lamborghini lump costing “just” $200,000.

(In fact, this is not their first brand extension in the field. They made and sold 320 “Rambo-Lambos” between 1986 and 1993, after attempting to build a military vehicle but not finding any buyers. The market for SUVs is admittedly now much much larger.)

But will Kanye want to name-check the Urus like he did with “mercy me, that Murcielago?”

Lamborghini Urus

Not unless he is making a kiddies album.

The chief of Lamborghini has hinted the new SUV might not even be the end of the brand extensions. And the people most excited about  that can probably be found working at Ferrari. It means one less competitor for the position of top pure sports car maker.

“We will never build an SUV”, said Ferrari in 2013, before going on to claim that “an SUV cannot deliver genuine driving emotion”.