Sometimes people push back on posts of mine they don't like by telling me I'm out of bounds. Somehow, they say, I've crossed the boundary of what I'm allowed to write about. They are angry that I'm now writing about something outside my defined area.
I'm usually taken aback by this, because I didn't realize I'd actually agreed to any boundaries.
Brands run into this all the time. Consumers give them boundaries. Nike isn't allowed to make a computer, for example (unless they partner with Apple). It turns out, though, that marketers decide to believe in these boundaries a lot more than consumers do.
A beautifully made product or service (one that we agree with) gets a lot of slack, regardless of its source. Virgin is a great example of this. Branson can market cola and airplanes with the same brand, largely because we like what he makes. In Korea, there are a few massive brands that are 'allowed' to market anything they like, from dishwashers to cars. Google is allowed to market the very cool new Squares, of course.
The real problem is that when marketers believe they are going out of bounds, the work they do tends to be lousy. Starbucks attempt at chocolate, for example, wasn't as good at being chocolate as their coffee is at being coffee.I think that's because the marketers at Starbucks feel they have permission to care about coffee, but chocolate is merely an extension, an additional profit center, not a passion.
I'm not arguing for carte blanche craziness with your brand. American Express can do travelers checks and credit cards and could have done PayPal… but no, they probably shouldn't launch a line of whiskey any time soon. I am, however, arguing that once you have permission to talk to someone, finding new products or services for them is a smart way to grow.