A Case Study in Bad Marketing

OK.  Before I explain why Asus deserves to be mentioned in marketing textbooks for its horrible management of the Eee brand, let me first say that I love my Eee PC 901.  I've had this little device for a couple weeks now, and it's just a really great product.

  • The battery life is outstanding.
  • It takes a few days of use to get accustomed to the keyboard, but after that, it's quite usable.
  • I wish the Mac were available in this form factor.  (Yes, I know about the MacBook Air.  That's not even close to what the Eee is.)
  • I'd prefer Linux, but I've got the XP version.  At some point, when Ubuntu Netbook Remix is ready to work smoothly on this thing, I'll probably repave.  But for now, everything Just Works, and I don't want to lose that.
  • I got this device to replace my day timer, not my laptop.  I don't really do any serious work on my Eee.  It's a portable web browser and email client.  Visual Studio is not installed.
  • OTOH, I'm thinking that for my next trip, the MacBook Pro will stay home and the Eee will go.
  • I know the 10-inch netbooks are gaining in popularity, but for me the 8.9-inch form factor is much better.  The MSI Wind is a lot bigger.  The Eee is so small I can (and do) take it everywhere.  The 10-inch models remind me of a laptop.
  • For me, the Eee is the second coming of my HP 200LX.
  • I think of my Eee as a large and extremely capable BlackBerry, not as a small and a lame laptop.

So, like I said, it's a great product.  But Asus is doing everything they can to destroy this brand.

The brand name "Eee" is great.  It's short and memorable.  Its sound matches its sense.  It just fits.

But Asus is now introducing so many products under the Eee name that soon the brand will be meaningless.

I believe the first popular Eee was the 701.  People raved about it.  I never owned one, but apparently the two most popular attributes were the low price and the small size.  Either of these attributes could have become the positioning for the Eee brand.  Maybe both.

But now Asus has all kinds of Eee products.  Some are small.  Some are large.  Some are cheap.  Some are expensive.  They're even working on a desktop machine with the Eee brand.  After that I can only assume that we'll see Eee cola, Eee furniture and Eee shaving products.

Maybe Asus doesn't care.  After all, they're basically a manufacturing company, not a marketing company, right?  The fact that they created a great brand was probably an accident anyway.

But as a marketer, that's what makes this even more infuriating.  Creating a great brand usually requires hard work, lots of creativity, and tremendous discipline.  When someone pursues the goal in that manner and succeeds, I admire them.  But when someone accidentally succeeds, and then destroys their own work, I just want to bang my head against the desk.  Yes, I know that luck is a factor.  I just hate the situations where luck is the only factor.  We're making products here, not Top 40 pop radio songs.  Talent and hard work should count for something.

Oh well.  The Eee brand will die and Asus will return to its former life of making products that normal people have never heard about.

But I think this product category will survive.  These things might even become popular enough to go mainstream.  I can only assume that Dell will end up being the leader in this market segment.

But whatever brand they use for these products, it will never be as cool as "Eee".