Law #12: The Law of Line Extension
16 Jun 2004
(This entry is part of a series I am writing on
Immutable Laws of Marketing.)
Ouch! Ralph Johnson says
I am making "snide" comments about Java marketing. That stings.
Dr. Johnson was one of my professors at UIUC. He had a significant
impact on my life, probably more than he knows. He's incredibly smart, and
he would be a finalist in the Nicest Guy on Earth competition.
When Dr. Johnson whispers, it sounds loud, at least to me.
Still, despite the small rebuke from my mentor, I can't quite bring myself to
repent. I'm not trying to be mean or arrogant, but my goodness, we're
talking about Sun here.
"Bummer of a birthmark,
Asking me not to be critical of Java marketing is like asking me to watch a
Jim Carrey flick and only pay attention to the supporting cast. Some
things are just too obvious to ignore.
It's fair to observe that everything is relative. Dr. Johnson
is talking about Smalltalk marketing, and I suppose Java marketing
looks pretty effective from that point of view. Clearly, Java is a big
success. It is a mainstream language and platform. However, I
remain of the opinion that Java could have been even more.
Remember: Marketing is an iceberg. There is the part of marketing
you can see (advertising and communications), and the part you cannot see
(strategy). We tend to forget about the part of the iceberg which is
hidden under the water.
If I started writing about Sun's mistakes in marketing strategy, it would be
an awfully long time before I ran out of things to say. Their marketing
communications work is generally good. But in the end, the most tactful
thing to say is that Sun is a hardware company trying to do software.
Do you remember the Far Side cartoon with the two deer? One of them has
a birthmark on his chest which looks exactly like a bullseye. For someone
who writes about marketing strategy, Sun is that deer.
You hurt the ones you
Please don't pigeonhole me as an anti-Java guy. Yes, I mostly do .NET
stuff these days, but I don't get religious about technology. My web
server runs Debian. When I repave my Windows box, the first things I
install are cygwin and emacs. I sometimes write stuff in
Python. I've written lots of Java code, and I really like it. I'm
not mad at Java. If anything, I'm mad at Sun for doing such a fine job
preventing Java from realizing its full potential.
Back to the topic at
The Law of Line Extension says that it is a mistake to take
the name of one product and apply it to another. Companies do this
often, but it basically never works. We think that the power of
the brand will help sell the new product. Instead, the brand itself is
tarnished. People start to get confused about what the brand means.
Quite often it is necessary to kill the second product before it causes too
much damage to the first one.
Confession: SourceGear broke this law when we introduced SourceOffSite Collaborative
Edition. We should not have borrowed the name of SourceOffSite for this product.
When I critique marketing mistakes, I don't spare myself.
I already wrote about this law back in April when I got all fussy about Golden
Oreos. I don't have too much more to say, except...
Ever heard of the Java Desktop