ASUS aims for design and lifestyle driven brand positioning

by Steve Blum • , , ,

ASUS chairman Jonney Shih gambled that he could set a meet-or-beat benchmark with an early Tuesday news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show. Risky strategy, because if he doesn’t have a game-changing announcement, ASUS will end up looking diminished with every comparison made during Wednesday’s wall-to-wall press events.

Didn’t happen. No tablet computer or e-reader or smartphone to announce.

Turns out, the game they’re trying to change is their brand positioning: shift the ASUS brand from representing smaller, cheaper, geekier laptops and netbooks to being a full-on, mainstream portable computer maker, with a design-driven, consumer electronics edge. Nowhere near, say, Sony’s level, but they’re certainly taking their first steps along that road. The goal is to become one of the top three portable computer makers by 2011.

ASUS bamboo computer, CES 2010
 World’s first panda-recyclable laptop
Shih supported the positioning with new products. A streamlined product line for gamers and power users, with a full sized, full powered, Darth Vader-look laptop. High concept netbook styling by a brand name designer intended to appeal to women. Social responsibility and lower carbon footprints across the product line. Computers made out of bamboo. A big laptop that’s trying to evoke the black tie aura of an orchestral instrument.

More powerful, better looking, greener, more this, more that. Unfortunately, Not news, unfortunately. It would be news, albeit bad, if this year’s stuff ran just like last year’s.

They have good stuff to talk about, and likely will move into the top three in their category in the near term. The mobile computer sector, Shih said, grew by 25% in the third quarter of 2009, while ASUS grew by 56%. That’s exactly what they need to do.

From a concept perspective, Shih introduced Waveface, which might someday be a line of wearable, stuffable, mountable computing and communication devices, tightly integrated with a networked suite of lifestyle services. Think of a smartphone that wraps around your wrist like a bracelet, or a tablet computer that folds up like a piece of paper. Game-changing stuff, if it ever becomes actual stuff.