One of the rules of branding from the classic The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries and Laura Ries is the law of contraction, which tells us that a brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus. The marketplace is teeming with companies and brands that have lost focus, overexpanded, and are now scrambling to contract to regain brand value. Think of how popular niche marketing is these days. There’s a reason — focus can be very powerful. However, it’s hard to stay focused when stockholders are demanding double digit growth year over year. As a result, most companies find themselves growing too big and brands find themselves overextended all in an ill-conceived attempt by managers and executives to deliver those expected returns or face the unemployment line.
This week, Google announced the launch of its new web-based operating system — Google Chrome OS. Google expects Chrome OS will give Microsoft some competition for its Windows operating system that has long owned the market for space on desktops and laptops. The questions are these:
- Will Google succeed in taking a sizeable chunk out of Microsoft’s market share with Google Chrome OS?
- Will individuals and/or enterprises make the shift to a web-based open source operating system from Google?
- Will Microsoft care or continue to think they’re untouchable?
- Is Google forgetting the law of contraction?
It’s hard to say what affect Google Chrome OS will have on the market in 1-year, 3-years or 5-years. It’s certainly going to be interesting to watch the power players position their products and brands for battle. On the other hand, it will be equally interesting to see if Google’s expansion beyond what it does best – online search and helping people find relevant information — will be successful at any level.
Google is a recognized brand name but it’s not perfect. Will forgetting the law of contraction hurt the brand in the long run? Again, we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, most consumers are still not satisfied with online search results, but Google seems to be following the path that so many companies before it have done, it’s easier to see dollar signs in expansion than fixing what ails the core brand promise through focus.
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