Jonathan Gardner of Cnet Asia had an interesting take on Asus' over-stretching of the Eee brand, blaming it on the company's inability to change their local, “Confucian” corporate culture. Gardner, a columnist who apparently knows people, declared that “Asus will not be the next Samsung,” mainly because they're following the path of a “typical” Taiwan business story. So, by interesting, I mean arguably incorrect and also kind of racist.
So the Eee was a minor global hit with the budget-conscious and started to get a bit of brand recognition out there. What next? Never the strategic thinkers, the company did what any Taiwan firm would do—flood the market with brand and line extensions... ...ASUS is no different from most in this regard. Sure, they have an Italian as their "design director", but no other outside adviser with any sort of influence. Their leadership is all very local with a local mindset, not those of the foreign-educated Korean type that Samsung brought in when it wanted to start revolutionizing its corporate culture. And that's an important point: It took Samsung and others many years to become powerful global brands. And many of those early years were spent reforming the company from within and building a strong focus on a corporate mission and strategy. They didn't waste a lot of time on chasing feeble trends.
Granted, we've been a little confused by Asus' Eee line-up as well. We'd love to see them return to their roots and maybe stop slapping the name Eee on things that aren't cheap and netbooky. But blaming the dilution of their brand on them being Taiwanese is, considering the amount of tech-based success stories that have come out of the island, facetious. Look at HTC, for example. The maker of the first Google Android handset has watched its revenues skyrocket at ten times the pace of the standard phone market. Or maybe Acer, who now commands second place in notebook shipments and third in PC shipments all over the world. While Taiwan's brands still aren't as globally recognized as their Korean and Japanese neighbors, the countries are all following pretty similar paths—moving from components manufacturing to high-tech, name-brand merchandise. Besides, both Japan and South Korea got their best known brands up there without giving up "Asian corporate culture.” Samsung, despite its attempts to open up and adhere to global competition standards, is still run by a chaebol. Sony only appointed its first non-Japanese CEO two years ago. While there are tons of problems with the closed nature of Asian conglomerates, a “lack of focus” and iffy brand-building gimmicks probably aren't on that list. And lastly, can you really call the netbook a “feeble trend?” A study in September pegged low-cost laptops as the driving force behind increased PC shipments at a time of economic sluggishness. If anything, Asus is the proud daddy of a movement that's changed the entire industry. Not all of Asus' recent moves have seemed particularly smart. But thinking their nationality has something to do with it—that's just plain dumb. [Cnet Asia]