Blog Post

Should Cisco kill the Linksys brand?

linksyslogo.gifCisco Systems, apparently is facing a dilemma: whether to lose to the Linksys brand name or not? Cisco bought Linksys a couple of years ago for $500 million, and it has been a good addition to the portfolio, expanding Cisco’s reach into consumer, SOHO and small and medium sized business markets. (Read: Cisco’s born again consumerism.)

CEO John Chambers has expressed his wishes many times to phase out Linksys brand, and just consolidate everything under the Cisco moniker. He reiterated the same in Europe last week. (See video on YouTube via UberPulse.)On the corporate blog, the company is saying the two brands can co-exist.

We can make jokes about CEO being the last one to know, but we won’t. Our friends at Light Reading think that Cisco should shank the Linksys name. eWeek thinks they will be shooting themselves in the foot.

linksysrouter.jpgI am with eWeek: who goes to BestBuy and asks for a Cisco-branded access point. Of course, some of us who follow the networking business too closely are likely to wonder: how much is Cisco overcharging me for this piece of plastic and silicon?

What do you think Cisco should do with the Linksys brand? Keep it or kill it?

35 Responses to “Should Cisco kill the Linksys brand?”

  1. Cisco should keep the Linksys brand. People are already knowing cisco for enterprise and Linksys for SOHOs.
    Also, I can’t understand why some people say Linksys is shit and should be phased-out. Remember that besides the Linksys logo there is a cisco logo on every Linksys producet. cisco won’t ever put its logo on a crappy product.
    If cisco phases-out the Linksys brand they would most probable kill a series of products and overcharge for the others.

  2. keep the brand or merge brand are only 2 solutions. A new brand, new consumer line would solve some problems, if coupled with real engineering design changes.

    Branding in itself, does nothing to product quality, functionality or address design deficiencies.

    CSCO has (stockwise) growth problems. rather than divest their emerging BUs and build new companies that can scale stockwise, and bringing real shareholder value.

    JC insists in an everything CSCO strategy.
    integrating all products under the CSCO moniker. Many acquisitions have been stultified or underperformed after ‘borg-like’ integration

    try something new John.a new brand, for consumers that has a CSCO like quality perception.

    in terms of interoperability.. we’ve got a long way to go.. make Telepresence, VoIP, SA, wireless all play seamlessly.

  3. Though getting rid of the Linksys name wouldn’t affect me as a buyer I think it would really mess things up for the average home consumer. When your average joe thinks of Cisco they think it’s large and quite complicated, but when they think of Linksys they think of it as something more on their level.

  4. Don Vaillancourt

    I strongly agree with Czaries (1st comment) on this. I would never consider Cisco because they are deemed expensive enterprise solution hardware. Until Cisco becomes a consumer brand name I believe Linksys needs to stick around.

    Plus from a conceptual standpoint, I have two brands to chose from Linksys or Cisco and not Cisco and some other brands.


  6. Philips faced this issue a while back — Magnavox was the US brand, they wanted the band to be Philips globally.

    Result: they started branding things Philips Magnavox to make the connection, then eventually dropped Magnavox on most products.

    Cisco Linksys routers make sense in this scenario. Then 2 years from now it’s just Cisco.

  7. Linksys has its own brand identity. Why spend half a billion dollar to kill a brand.Cisco – Corporate Customers. Linksys -Home Segment. We could clearly see the differentiation.Why not people at Cisco?

  8. Linksys is a global brand. I would even say a respected global brand. I think the name should be kept but connected to Cisco, through corporate design or clearer cisco branding presence on linksys products and communication.

    The current Linksys corporate design looks rather cheap. It needs an upgrade. Getting closer to the Cisco corporate design will serve it well.

    The question is: if Cisco decide and kill the linksys brand, what will they gain. Will they sell more routers and wireless hubs? Or is this more of an exercise in brand-as-empire.

    Many home users, who, by now, are aware of the Linksys brand, might not even know who Cisco is (or if they know it, it will be something ‘corporate’ and distant to them).

    So.. Keep the Linksys brand, upgrade its look and communication (and innovate on the product design level) and connect it more to Cisco.

    Another suggestion: specialize the Linksys brand on a certain class(s) of products (like wireless solutions, for example) and move the rest of the Linksys prpducts (the more ‘pro’ ones) to Cisco.

  9. Drop it, leave it.. who knows. Cisco badly needs share of our “livingrooms” but they still need to tell us what share and what are they going to do to persuade us the consumers.

    Having KISS, Linksys and Scientific Atlanta and doing nothing to converge all these into connected entertaining proposal/lifestyle/experience is both amusing and frustrating. So the question is “what is Cisco going to do in our livingrooms” and then the branding answer is part of the answer to the “how” question. :)

    For me what CISCO lacks is the service to merge and converge all their hardware belongings into the experience the consumer is after.
    XBOX has Xbox live – the community and the service, Apple has iTunes to hold their converged universe together, TIVO has um.. The Tivo experience and so forth.. you can name even more examples.

  10. If brand is everything and this story is about just that.

    Surely it’s important to do your homework.

    1. When you pay $500m for a brand, your CFO has calculated the intangibles like the value of the brand?

    2. Then before you decide to dump it, you do some smart research that might cost you $250-$300k. Awareness, perception that kind of thing- pretty simple.

    You could just do a Colbert to find the truthiness- “You don’t look up truthiness in a book, you look it up in your gut”, but I am sure Mr. Chambers is armed with the facts.

    If Cisco has ambitions to become a consumer brand, most people know the company as the one that delivers foodstuff to stores (Sysco), they are going to need to spend big.

    Sorry, that was my gut thinking again.

    I would be in the Chambers camp, before I jump, I really want to see that research.

  11. Mohammed Mehdi

    While consumer brands do take time to build, I for one (though I’m probably a rare exception) would like to see Cisco kill the Linksys brand. When I think of Cisco I think of corporate networks and IT infrastructure. Many consumers could argue, “Hell, if a Fortune 500 company uses their products, then they must be doing something right.” Now, granted, the average home user doesn’t know much about corporate network infrastructure, but I think Cisco could leverage their existing corporate position as people who are the backbone of “Big Iron” and are now giving you the same so-called “reliability and robustness” in your own home…

    P.S. I’ve always been a sucker for buying commericial/industrial grade/professional products…

  12. It’s arguable whether Scientific Atlanta is a Consumer Brand — when was the last time you comparison shopped for Digital Cable decoders? Cisco could forklift the SA brand with little effect, but over time all those boxes sitting on TVs with Cisco logos on them could help to nurture a consumer brand identity.

    LinkSys is a different story. They make a really cheap low-quality high-volume product for those who don’t know enough to care. There is huge value in maintaining this identity at arm’s length: people will know what they’re getting. Over time, how could you differentiate (easily) the quality and positioning of Cisco’s Aironet product line from the WRT54s made by LinkSys?

  13. Damian

    I think the best example I’ve seen of brand transition is Cingular to AT&T – not that I love the choice, but they have executed, imho, very well. Subtle things like starting the commercials with Orange and ending in Blue. I think they gradually phase out Linksys which I think has much less brand equity than would be imagined. Here’s a test: ask your Mom what kind of wireless router she has (assuming she has one) – for most people it’s a box sitting next to their cable modem.

    • jason

      AT&T is a completely different beast. Every consumer in America knows who AT&T is. They do telephones. It was already a way stronger brand than cingular was. To consolidate under that banner was a no-brainer. People who used cingular already would understand because their bills would change. Everyone else would see the commercials or would say “Hey look! AT&T has cell phones now. That should be good, right?”

      Cisco is relatively unknown to average computer user. They are going to ask, “Where did those blue and green ones go? That’s the one our son told us to get the last time.”

  14. Black & Decker…when B&D tried to leverage its brand across two distinct markets – professional (Cisco) and consumer (Linksys) the professional crowed fled. Perhaps Mr. Chambers may want to read the case taught in business schools as a reminder.

  15. Rob Chuah

    I think just keep the brand. Consumer brand takes time to build. Marketing dollar will be spent solely for the purpose of rebranding. I just think they could have used the money in a better way.

  16. Dump the Linksys brand. I’ve thought this myself for a while. Why?

    1) If the consumer is savvy enough to know the difference between Linksys and any other router brand, chances are they also know Linksys = Cisco.

    2) If the consumer is not savvy enough, well, there is no clear “branding leader” in the router space… it’s merely a utility. Cisco would be very wise to start a branding strategy this way; your average person once didn’t know what Intel was either!

  17. Linksys and Cisco serve such different markets, I wouldn’t rebrand. I don’t see any advantage to the hme networking business having the Cisco brand.
    Also are they going to keep the low margin Linksys Enterprise products allowing them to encroach on traditional high margin Cisco product or simply withdraw the product line?

    Strange move..

  18. keep it Linksys. people are used to it and it sounds much more consumer friendly.

    Just saw the clip, i’ve always thought Chambers was one of the best speakers out there, he’s very smooth. So glad he preaches about drinking the internet kool aid and not the grape flavored Jonestown kool aid.

  19. Cisco’s desire to kill the Linksys brand emerges from its history of acquiring companies for their products or sales forces and very quickly “Ciscoing” the line.

    Linksys and Scientific Atlanta are the two notable exceptions to this rule.

    As Steven Vaughan-Nichols points out in eWeek, Cisco’s murmurings about doing away with the Linksys brand are emerging from a desire to build Cisco’s equity as a SMB and eventually a consumer brand.

    Rather than putting itself in an “Either/Or” situation, Cisco needs to figure out a way of using the obvious equity of the Linksys product line as a way of supporting the Cisco masterbrand. They need to do the same thing with Scientific Atlanta. Slapping “A Cisco Company” under the logo just wont do it.

    Too many companies are killing off powerful product brands out of a frustration with how to reconcile them with their company brand. Unless Cisco realizes that its tried and true formula for incorporating brands wont work in these new markets, their chances expanding the relevance of their brand will never succeed.

  20. I think they’ve got to kill it. Several years ago, Linksys was a brand worth buying (and there weren’t too many other choices), but after they started losing business to lower-priced competitors, their product quality started to drop quickly, IMHO. Last time I went shopping for network equipment, I didn’t even consider Linksys because I had quality issues with prior products.

    I think rebranding as Cisco and making a slightly more quality product will be worth it for them.

  21. I think they should definately keep the “Linksys” brand name. When I think “Cisco”, I think industrial, commercial, big-business applications – and they’ve trained consumers and especially other businesses to think that. Linksys has become one of the most trusted brands in home networking.

    I think it’s important for Cisco to keep at least an arm’s length away from the consumer market in order to maintain their more business-centric nature. Keeping the two separate brands will allow that.