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Cupcake Wars, Cupcake Champions and the Magic of Brand Extensions TV spin-offs have something to teach business owners about getting more mileage out of their brands. Consider these five lessons from Cupcake Wars, Project Runway and other reality-TV favorites.

By Carol Tice Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Cupcake Wars, Cupcake Champions and the Magic of Brand Extensions

I wanted to check out an episode of the Food Network's reality show Cupcake Wars this week, both because I really like cupcakes, and also because I'm fascinated with how the show unites the polar-opposite concepts of cupcakes and war. But when I tune in -- hey! -- it's morphed into a best-of contest this season called Cupcake Champions.

Yes, as we've seen before with Project Runway All-Stars and many other shows, a successful show -- a successful brand -- has created a spinoff. Cupcake Champions is essentially more of the same, only amped-up a little, as it's all the winning bakers from previous episodes competing with each other in ever-crazier cupcake contests. This concept is as old as Jeopardy! Challenge of Champions at least.

So why do we tune in, if we've basically seen this before? It's the magic of brand extension. Take something we already know and love, give it a twist, and you get something new customers want immediately. It's got that tantalizing combination of familiar and new.

It all may make you moan, "Doesn't anyone have any new ideas?" But there's a reason they don't. It's because people love brand extensions, and they're easier to market than new products. They have a built in audience from the first product you put out.

If you'd like a primer on how to extend your brand, just take a look at the twists these reality shows have put on their successful spinoffs:

  1. Broaden your market. Bravo's Tabatha's Salon Takeover recently morphed into a new show, Tabatha Takes Over. She came up in the salon world, but clearly Tabatha's sharp eye for how to run a business was applicable to other types of business, too. Now that she's sharpening the knives for incompetent business owners of all stripes, the potential audience is much larger.
  2. Let us inside. The Animal Planet show Tanked, which features the owners of a custom fish-tank business, recently added Tanked: Unfiltered. They've taken old episodes and added behind-the-scenes commentary to them to create a new dimension to the show. Remember that people love to know what goes into the work you do -- and you can add that story to your packaging or your website to build interest.
  3. Do a "best of" version. If you have a product you've been doing for years, think about how you could wrap all that expertise into a deluxe version of that same thing. That's exactly what all of the champions/all-star iterations of successful reality shows do. Maybe you have a product that was once a best-seller and now has waned? Bring it back with a few new twists and packaging, and it could be an easy new hit.
  4. Ratchet up the drama. The best-of versions of these shows aren't just more interesting because all the contestants are cream of the crop. It's fun because the show producers throw in more difficult tasks for the all-stars to take on. On Cupcake Champions, for instance, they gave the bakers an assignment to bake three different types of cupcakes, but then halfway through their allotted time threw a fourth cupcake at them. On Project Runway All-Stars, they give the clothing designers insanely short deadlines to watch them scramble to try to make a well-tailored dress. Do customers know the whole story of the obstacles you face in your business? If not, do a series of blog posts and tell them about it.
  5. Do a retrospective. Tanked also recently had a "Most Challenging Tanks" episode, in which they looked back on the show and discussed the tanks they found toughest to create. People love to hear the story of how a business's products evolved, so consider showing past projects or products on our site to help customers learn what made you the company you are today.

How will you extend your brand this year? Leave a comment and tell us your plan.

Carol Tice

Owner of Make a Living Writing

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at

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