Is Jim’s Beauty set to flop like Harley-Davidson perfume – or could it be branding genius?
Jim Penman's beauty move begs the question – just because you can, does that mean you should?
It’s Jim’s Beauty, offering “professional beauty treatments in the comfort of your chosen space”.
It’s surprising because Jim’s Group got its start mowing lawns, then extended into related businesses, including dog washing, pest control and roofing.
These services are usually offered in the client’s home, and are provided by franchisees, as will the beauty services – which will include facial, lash and brow and nail treatments, as well as waxing and teeth whitening.
It isn’t a joke, although it has been greeted on social media as one, and was once the plot of a TV comedy sketch.
Brand extensions are nothing new
Brands often try to extend their ‘halo‘ to cover other fields, hoping to capitalise on good will and stay relevant in a changing world.
Fast food giant McDonald’s is a leader, introducing McCafes in 1993, salads and wraps in the 2000s, and more recently adding plant-based and vegan meals.
Coles and Woolworths have diversified into just about every product there is by selling their generic home brands.
This has allowed them to undercut other brands and get more margin – a strategy that is paying off as consumers become more stretched, allowing Coles to increase home-brand sales 9.4 per cent and Woolworths 7.8 per cent over the past year.
It works where there’s brand alignment
Brand extensions work where there is brand alignment – where the extension is true to the image of the brand and doesn’t devalue it.
Sometimes the extreme strangeness of an extension can create a buzz around a faded company, even if its sales bomb.
Jim’s could fill a gap in the beauty market
Industry researcher IBISWorld says Australia’s beauty industry is characterised by “market saturation and the wholehearted acceptance of its products by consumers”, which isn’t a good sign for Jim’s.
But IBISWorld says sales of beauty products are overwhelmingly through physical stores with “new channels” (mainly online) accounting for only 13.8 per cent – which suggests there is room for growth in face-to-face sales aligned with services.
Jim Penman started Jim’s Mowing as a side business in 1982 while studying for a PhD in history.
He turned it into a franchise in 1989 and then extended the idea to franchises including Jim’s Cleaning, Jim’s Building Inspections, Jim’s Fencing, Jim’s Antennas, Jim’s Pest Control and Jim’s Dog Wash.
A blog on a Jim’s Group website describes it as a “go-to for a plethora of services”. But they are all associated with the guy who used to have the beard – the tradie.
His success, or failure, in moving into beauty will help answer one of the enduring questions in business strategy – just because you can, does that mean you should?
Edwina Luck, senior lecturer QUT Business School, Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, Queensland University of Technology and Nicholas Grech, sessional academic and PhD candidate, Queensland University of Technology