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If Microsoft made cars – A lesson in the evils of brand extension



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February 8, 2008 8:15 am

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Law #12 of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Trout and Ries

The Law of Line Extension – There is an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand.

Let me quote from the beginning of the chapter rather than using my own words.

“If violating any of our laws was a punishable offense, a large portion of corporate America would be in Jail. By far the most violated law in our book is the law of line extension.” Trout and Ries

Basically the concept of Line Extension is to take something with a strong brand and then place that brand on something else that you want to introduce.

Let’s use an example – Microsoft – I could write a tremendous amount about Microsoft and line extensions, but before I write anything, let’s play a little game.

What word does Microsoft own in the minds of its customers? Hmmm…that is pretty broad…okay, I will try to narrow this down with a scenario.

You’re a college student. You are writing your thesis paper. You have been going for 36 straight hours…you haven’t slept, you haven’t eaten, you haven’t done anything but type…you haven’t even backed up your paper or turned off your computer during those 36 hours. Okay, do you have that scenario in your head? Now, you are using Microsoft’s latest software that just came out on your brand new computer.

You go to hit the save button to save the last 36 hours of work.

You should expect your new Microsoft software to:

1. Save as expected and nothing else
2. Save but give a slight error
3. Give a slight error but not allow you to save
4. Lock up
5. Blow up

Now, let me ask you again. What word does Microsoft own when it comes to its software? It is the largest software company in the world, does it own the word “Reliable”?

Does it own the word “Secure”? How about “Stable”?

Does it own any word in your mind that would make you trust it with your life?

Let’s ask the question another way, If Microsoft wrote Autopilot software for Boeing Airplanes, would that cause you to be concerned?

There is a joke on the Internet that is several years old about what if Microsoft made cars. I am reposting it here with no claim to authorship since I have no idea who was the first to actually write it. Just understand that I certainly did not.

What if Microsoft Built Cars?

Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you’d have to buy a new car.
Occasionally your car would just die on the highway for no reason. Accept this, restart and drive on.

Occasionally, executing a maneuver would cause the car to stop and fail to restart. You’d have to re-install the engine. For some strange reason, you’d just accept this too.

You could only have one person in the car at a time, unless you bought “Car 95″ or “Car NT”. But then you’d have to buy more seats.

Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was twice as reliable, five times as fast, twice as easy to drive – but it would only run on five percent of the roads.

The oil, engine, gas and alternator warning lights would be replaced with a single “General Car Fault” light.

People would get excited about “new” features in Microsoft cars, forgetting completely that they had been available in other cars for years.

We’d all have to switch to Microsoft gas and auto fluids.

New seats would force everyone to have the same size butt.

The airbag system would say, “Are you sure?” before going off.

If you were involved in a crash, you would have no idea what happened.

Microsoft cars would have a special radio/cassette player which would only be able to listen to Microsoft FM and play Microsoft cassettes.

If you couldn’t afford to buy a new car, you could borrow your friend’s and copy it.

Whenever you bought a car, you would have to reorganize the ignition a few days until it worked.

You would need an upgrade to run cars on a highway next to each other.

***********************

What’s the Point?

Visit my blog at http://gwbliss.blogspot.com to read the conclusion of my comments on brand extension.

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