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Why Cisco Shouldn’t Drop the Linksys Brand


We’ve known for a while now that Cisco was planning on doing away with its Linksys brand. My question for John Chambers, Cisco’s CEO, is: “Why do you really want to hurt your company so bad?

Back in April, Chambers said, “Over the long run we will move to a Cisco brand in the consumer and commercial space. That will evolve over the next year.” Since then, Chambers reiterated that the Linksys brand was coming to its “end of life” and that in “the evolution of the [brand] it will all come, over time, into a Cisco brand.”

Why? Because, Chambers explained, while the Linksys is well known in the United States, its not well known globally.

And, thats a good reason to kill Linksys, because?

Thanks to my wife being a branding expert, I know a wee bit about branding. Who cares if only a few people globally know about Linksys, if everyone in North America knows the Linksys name?

I asked people shopping in the network section of the Best Buy in Asheville, N.C., what name they thought of when they considered buying network equipment. My totally unscientific survey found that 10 out of 11 said Linksys, with number 11 mentioning D-Link.

You can’t get brand recognition like this overnight. You usually cant get it over years. When people think SMB (small and midsize businesses) or SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) networking equipment, they think Linksys.

It’s really pretty simple. Big networks: Cisco. Little networks: Linksys. Or, as a friend of mine put it, “John Chambers doesnt really think that selling to my dad is the same thing as selling to Rackspace?”

Reading between the lines, I think Cisco is making that mistake. Now, Cisco hasnt officially buried Linksys, so theres still time for them to back up. I really hope they do.

Of course, there’s some overlap between Cisco and Linksys customers. Cisco Smart Business Communications System is an integrated Cisco product engineered just for small businesses. Im sure there are SMB customers for Ciscos Unified Communications 500 Series integrated device, which provides eight Power over Ethernet ports wireless, security (VPN), firewall, etc., at a cost of between $650 to $750 per desktop.

But, you know what? I’m also sure there are smaller SMBs and SOHOs that would prefer to pay less per desktop with a mix and match Linksys solution of say a WRT150N Wireless-N Home Router and a RV016 16-Port VPN Router for less than a hundred bucks a desktop.

Last, but not least, Cisco needs to look around at other technology businesses that thought that SMB and SOHO customers were the same as their enterprise customers. They’re not. They never have been. They never will be.

Technology companies that believe in one-size fits all brand, channel and support customer needs don’t tend to do well. Usually, its the SMBs and SOHOs that get the short end of the stick in these deals. I know Linksys customers aren’t really where Cisco makes the big money. Still, some of those little companies do grow into the ones where Cisco can cash six- and seven-figure contract checks.

So, if I were Cisco, I wouldn’t chance alienating them by killing off Linksys. Theres a lot of life left in the Linksys brand, products and service. And, I, for one, don’t see any down side in letting Linksys live on.

A version of this story first appeared in eWEEK.

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