ColdFusion needs a name change

Feb 24, 2010

In marketing, your brand is pretty much everything. You lose control of your brand or image and well you can usually kiss your product goodbye in time. Case in point, Coke - great brand and they work extremely hard for over a hundred years to maintain that. As a result, it's nearly impossible to find someone who doesn't know Coke and something of the brand. They may prefer Pepis or Dr Pepper but they typically have nice things to say about Coke. Another case in point, Toyota and their recent troubles with their vehicles. The real problem, they face, is the damage to their brand is so great that future customers may look elsewhere for their next car.

My wife and I bought a GM car last year and I did a simple experiment during the process. The car she loved even before we started looking had a number of similar clones. All the clones were from different branches of the GM family. Here's the fun part, the wheel base, transmission, engine, etc. were all the same. The only different was the skin and brand name of the vehicle. She hated all the clones but loved the brand that was designed for her.

The simple fact is people do judge their books by the covers. We may not like it but it's just the way people work. Managing your image is critically important specially in the IT industry. Let's face it, most people/companies stick to the technology they fall into. They rarely make changes unless forced and when that day does come and they are looking for options - branding becomes extremely important. We're talking about the growth of a technology and its community. If the branding is off, things will go bad over time.

The one thing Adobe has been fairly consistent about is its terrible brand management. This  probably has to do with the fact that the majority of products are purchased or acquired through mergers. Here's a sample list..

Photoshop - purchased form the original developers
ColdFusion - from mergers Allaire, Macromedia and now Adobe
Flash - FutureSplash purchased from the developers and then acquired by the Macromedia merger
Dreamweaver - from the Macromedia merger

The basic pattern appears to be to acquire products/technologies from outside and then ride them out with a rapid version release schedule and low cost, overseas development. This is a strategy and yes they have made money with it. But, take a look at the branding on most of their product lines, it's not great. I've seen people who have used Photoshop for years and yet get pretty ticked off that after a couple of years they find themselves 2 versions behind on the product.

We have also seen a lot of problems this past month in the branding of Flash. In my opinion, Adobe has also handle this extremely poorly.

Even new products tend to also get mismanaged branding from the folks at Adobe.  Flex, AIR, Livecycle have all experience this first hand.

Yes, I'm sure Adobe has sales figures that show growth in many of their lines. That doesn't mean they are managing their brands well. Let's face it, the closest competitor to Photoshop is Fireworks and they're both are owned by Adobe. Adobe has been extremely fortunate not to have many direct competitors. That will likely change over time.

Branding has a long term impact, you won't see it in the quarterly sales figures. Domino's Pizza  figure that out. Adobe, I suspect, will too.

ColdFusion has suffer more than most. Allaire was too small and Macromedia was too focused on their other product lines. Adobe appears to have deeper pockets, but that doesn't translate in better branding. The 'ColdFusion' brand at this point is very damaged. It's not entirely fair but the that's where we find ourselves.

We can only hope that Adobe learns from its mistakes and starts implementing better brand management, but in the mean time there are things the ColdFusion team can do to help turn things around. I usually don't recommend this because rebuilding a new brand is never easy, but..

It's time to change the name!

Seriously, the 'ColdFusion' name was horrible to begin with since it referred to a pseudo-science. It hasn't done much since. The technology is great and truly revolutionary. The brand has never once reflected that - and that's been a real problem for all of us. When you hear someone mention their negative feelings towards ColdFusion, it's usually referring to the CF 5 and older days. The technology is almost completely evolved into a different species since then, and it's time to start over and create a new and proper image for this technology. Adobe should work very carefully and find a new image for this great product, and no that doesn't mean appending  the name with 'LiveCycle' ;)


Rudi Shumpert

Rudi Shumpert wrote on 02/24/103:14 PM


Could not agree more. The "code" name of the last few versions would be better choices.

Todd Rafferty

Todd Rafferty wrote on 02/24/103:51 PM

You only need to go as far as looking at career websites to see the confusion and destruction of the "brand" (coldfusion vs. cold fusion vs. Cold Fusion vs. ColdFusion vs. Coldfusion - only one of these is correct) that reaffirm your blog post.
Joshua Cyr

Joshua Cyr wrote on 02/24/103:57 PM

Mostly commenting to subscribe and catch up on any other comments that come from this.

Would changing name negatively impact Adobe's upgrade revenue? I can think of several (silly) rationales for people to not upgrade. They don't see it as an upgrade, they see Adobe as giving up on CF, they they think it is a different product and thus revisit the 'which should we use', etc.

Likelihood of the product having 'flash' or 'livecycle' in the new name?

Then there is that pesky <cftagname issue. :-)
John Mason

John Mason wrote on 02/24/104:54 PM

Yep, I hate it when a company directly imprints branding into the language. Like I really need a reminder each time that I'm doing CF development. But at this point it would be too much to strip the "cf" from every tag. The language is CFML the engine can be renamed and rebranded.

Flex has a similar problem with the mx namespace,etc. and I will be curious to see if each new version is going to have a different namespace. That's going to be a real mess after several years.
John Sieber

John Sieber wrote on 02/24/105:59 PM

I agree with the comment about leaving the language called cfml but using a different name for the server side engine. We have Railo, Open Bluedragon, and Smith project that all run cfml code, maybe it is time for the Adobe engine to have its own name as well. I think this could be helpful to show off how much the language and its options have advanced in the last 4 to 5 years.

denstar wrote on 02/25/102:46 PM

Seems like with twitter and whatnot, "branding" is a new meme, neh? Kinda hyped, in my HO. I grok it, but I feel it's not all that and a bag of chips. :)

What ColdFusion needs is some high profile sites and whatnot, vs. a new logo or new name or etc..

I'm a sentimental bastard tho.

Maybe if it was named fckfusion... ;)
Justin Carter

Justin Carter wrote on 02/27/109:59 AM

I think a product name change by Adobe would only harm ColdFusion (and CFML). The product has been around too long and the word ColdFusion is too ubiquitous for describing everything about the platform and language as a whole. In reality a name change would only serve to make existing content less accessible for those who weren't aware of the previous name, and many people would probably continue to call it ColdFusion anyway.

Of all the arguments that come up about what Adobe should change, I think most would support a free "core" ColdFusion version rather than a name change.

Adobe can better spend their time on more important things, like developer tools, educational material, marketing, and of course CF10 ;)
John Mason

John Mason wrote on 03/02/104:15 PM

@Justin, sorry I can't agree. The branding is critical for the success of the product and "ColdFusion" is a product - which you agree that Adobe should spend more time marketing. The branding of the product is a key component of any markteting strategy. What is the current strategy from Adobe? It's very hard to determine at this point.

David wrote on 03/03/104:21 PM

Too late - the time to do this was when Adobe bought (merged) Macromedia. A number of us who were at MAX around that time thought that was going to happen.

Still, remember for 2 or 3 years after the merger, the h8ters were filling the blogs with "Adobe killing CF" rumors/lies.

Haven't heard many of them recently, have you?
Justin Carter

Justin Carter wrote on 03/04/106:17 AM

@John: Yes the branding is critical, and so while ColdFusion currently has positive momentum I think it would be a complete disaster to change the name of the product.

Around 6 or 7 years ago (just before I started using CF) I would have agreed that a name change might have helped the perception of the language / platform / product by starting fresh with a new brand, but since then Adobe have done fairly well with the CF8 and CF9 releases and the case isn't really there any more. There are still misconceptions about ColdFusion but it's only that "oldschool" ignorance and that should continue to disappear over time as new developers come through.
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