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A brand extension too far

BRAND WATCH - Oops, McDonald's did it again, this time with the McAfrika burger, and 7-Up suddenly noticed the trend for brand extension, writes Jennifer Whitehead in this week's Brand Watch.

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McDonald's hit the headlines once again this week, but managed to balance out some of the embarrassment over the McAfrika burger with news that it was making its fries healthier.

The fast food chain this year has already been named in a lawsuit for causing obesity; faced numerous court cases over spilt hot drinks; faced a ban on its expansion in the Ukraine; and encouraged French consumers to eat a balanced diet... and so the list goes on.

Now it has been forced to dump plans to roll out the McAfrika burger in Norway, after local and international media coverage caused a storm of protest at the insensitivity of launching the burger at the time when many countries in Africa face famine.

The protests have rumbled on for some weeks now, before McDonald's in Norway decided it would modify the way the burger is being promoted at the 15 restaurants already selling it and would not be selling it at the other 45 branches in Norway.

McDonald's has also agreed to let relief agencies put collection boxes in the restaurants selling the burger, which it claims is based on an authentic African recipe.

However, there was more positive coverage for McDonald's when it revealed that it would be improving the quality of its cooking oil and reducing the amount of trans fatty acids, or "bad fat", in its fries, McNuggets, Filet-O-Fish and hash browns.

The move came too late, however, to stop a second class-action lawsuit being filed against the chain, this time for causing obesity in children. New global marketing director Larry Light, who was formerly CEO of Bates Advertising, will have plenty to sink his teeth into, as it was announced he was joining the company this week.

More junk food news, of the "what took you so long" variety. Cadbury-Schweppes has announced that it will launch a new flavour (and more importantly a new colour) for 7-Up.

Following in the footsteps of Pepsi Blue and Vanilla Coke, there will be a green-coloured, fruit-flavoured pop aimed at teenagers, and is reported to bear the name dnL -- and, although I don't recommend you attempt to confirm this by either adopting a complicated yoga position or moving your monitor, be assured that dnL is 7-Up upside down.

Not taken by the idea of green fizzy pop? Perhaps chocolate-flavoured mineral water is more your thing, a product that is to be launched by Strathmore Water in supermarkets this month.

The sugar-free, low-calorie drink promises to be a "sin free" treat that is set to appeal equally to men, women and children, or so its makers claim. The company says that there is "real interest and demand" for the product. But it seems that it might have a hard time convincing consumers that it is really a pleasant, low-fat alternative to the real thing.

Diageo's newest launch, Captain Morgan Gold, has failed to generate any "real interest and demand" in the US market, as the drinks giant announced it had flopped and left it with £24m worth of unwanted cases.

The product was launched in the US with Diageo hoping it would follow in the footsteps of Smirnoff Ice, which has been a resounding success. It may never be launched in the UK.

Plenty of brands were in the business pages this week as takeovers were called off, going ahead and being mooted.

First up was the Hershey sale, which has been blocked, temporarily at least, by of all things an orphans' court in Pennsylvania, which has jurisdiction over the family trust that is trying to sell its 31% stake in the company.

Today, some of the UK's best known high-street fashion brands are set to go to a new home as Arcadia announced it was recommending investors accept Phillip Green's 408p-a-share offer for the group, which will see the Bhs owner take control of brands such as Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton.

And the UK could see the creation of a new super supermarket chain, as Asda announced it was to make a £2.8bn bid for Safeway, a deal that would see it rival Tesco in size and buying power.

However, Asda probably won't be copying Waitrose and buying in the Poilane sour dough loaf. While philistines may ask: "How nice can a loaf of bread be?", other customers are prepared to fork out almost £10 for a loaf of the bread, which is made to a secret recipe and, in a perfect antidote to fast food, takes six hours to bake. Naturally, it was invented by the French.

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