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2004-06-11 14:52:40

Law #9: The Law of the Opposite

(This entry is part of a series I am writing on The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.)

The Law of the Opposite says that the #2 player should generally do the opposite of what the #1 player is doing.

If you are #2 in your category, you want to be #1, right?

Wrong.  You can't choose to be #1, but you can certainly choose to be #3 or #4.  The worst thing you can do is to try and beat the #1 player at his own game.  Instead, realize that not everyone in the market wants to play that game.  Offer those people an alternative.

This law is the reason that I humbly assert that Borland's strategy for Delphi is all wrong.

For several years, Delphi had been doing a fine job playing Pepsi to Visual Basic's portrayal of Coke.  Delphi is a solid #2 in the market for RAD tools.  People like Delphi.  It's a highly respected tool.

But something has gone terribly wrong.  When Microsoft zigged, Delphi should have zagged.

VB.NET is a huge discontinuous change from Visual Basic 6.  Even now, around two years later, some VB developers are still mad.  Not everyone wants to move onto the new .NET platform.  Some people need to continue developing traditional Win32 applications for quite a while longer.

I'm not saying that those angry VB6 people would have moved to Delphi.  But the Law of the Opposite still applies here.  Borland should have immediately shifted its message to be the opposite of the leader:  "Delphi -- the Win32 RAD tool that isn't trying to force you into something you don't want to do."   :-)

(Yes, yes, I know that Delphi 9 will still have support for native Win32 targets.  The point remains:  Borland is weakening itself and its message by refusing to focus.)

Interestingly, Borland seems to have repeated this mistake throughout their product line.  The result is that I can't figure out what market position they are trying to have.  Is Borland a .NET company or a Java company?

Luckily, although their marketing strategy team is MIA, their marketing communications team has saved the day by coming up with "Excellence Endures".  Surely a great tagline will take care of all their problems, eh?  :-)