Microsoft's "Entertainment and Devices" division suffers from poor branding

Microsoft's "Entertainment and Devices" division suffers from poor branding

Summary: While Windows, Office, and server tools pull in billions of dollars in profits for Microsoft, its "Entertainment and Devices" division is barely keeping its head above water. Why? One reason - poor branding.

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While Windows, Office, and server tools pull in billions of dollars in profits for Microsoft, its "Entertainment and Devices" division is barely keeping its head above water. Why? One reason - poor branding.

Before we look at Microsoft's branding or devices and entertainment products, let's take a trip down memory lane and look at how the company fouled up the branding of its flagship Windows line.

When Microsoft announced that it was naming XP's successor "Vista," tech pundits the world over when "Eh?" and "What does that mean?" and "That's a stupid name!" Rather than continue to capitalize on the "Windows" brand, the marketing folks at Redmond decided to pave new ground by trying to rebrand Microsoft's flagship OS product. Sure, it was still called "Windows Vista", but the emphasis was on "Vista" rather than "Windows."

When it became apparent to Microsoft that people didn't really like "Vista" the company carried out an experiment where it renamed the OS as "Mojave" and introduced this OS to those who said they disliked "Vista" despite the two operating systems being the same except in name). The same people who'd expressed a dislike for "Vista" seemed to like "Mojave."

As soon as Microsoft accepted that the "Vista" name was tainted, the company then had little choice but to return to promoting the "Windows" and "PC" brand (the "PC" branding was, at least in part, a response to Apple's endless "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" ads). Not only did Microsoft accept that its "Windows" brand needed advertising to consumers, but that it was far more effective to push "Windows" as a brand rather than focus too closely on individual editions or versions.

Note: It's interesting to note that Apple's "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" ads seemed to have dried up in the wake of Vista's release - there hasn't been a new ad campaign since Windows 7's launch day on October 23rd 2009.

Now let's look at Microsoft's branding when it comes to entertainment and devices. I don't make it my job to keep up with every new name that Microsoft comes out for things, but I'm painfully aware of a number of brands that Microsoft is trying to push - "Xbox," "Live" and "Zune" are three of the biggest, but there's also "Windows Mobile," and "Windows Phone 7 Series" and "Kin." There's probably a few that I've missed out.

Conclusion: Microsoft likes names. What's worse, Microsoft likes to choose silly names. Seriously, how many martinis did it take before people started thinking that words such as "Zune" and "Kin" were catchy? These random words tell you nothing about the product. As daft as Apple's "iPhone," "iTunes," and "iPad" might be, they do at least tell you right from the start what you are dealing with.

Personally, I think that Microsoft might be onto something with names like "Windows Phone 7 Series" because if nothing else, it pushes the view of a unified platform of devices that can coexist, rather than disparate entities. "Windows Phone," "Windows Search," "Windows Gaming," "Windows Music" and so on makes a lot more sense to me, and I think it would make a heck of a lot more sense to users than the current jamboree of names. Heck, even adding something as crazy as the "MS" prefix to the services would help pull them together.

Thoughts? Is Microsoft branding a mess, or do you think that there sense in separating out all the products into elements with their own individual names makes sense?

Topics: Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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40 comments
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  • What a relief

    I thought it was their product offerings. Shouldn't take them long to fix their branding issues.

    I expect the Zune to be the big seller this northern summer;-)
    Richard Flude
    • Backwards

      It is easier to fix a product than a brand.
      Economister
    • Actually the Zune itself is a great device...

      ...but I agree the name of the device is crappy. Don't have any clue what would be a great name but Zune, it's too vague, it doesn't bring to mind anything specific, which is probably why it's not as well recieved.
      PollyProteus
      • Zune was an attempt to hijack iTunes.

        They were trying to confuse grandmothers who were buying iPods for their grand kids for x-mas.

        Problem was, Zune became a synonymous with ugly brick of sh!@ (brown Zune) and grandmothers knew the difference between a "sexy" iPod and an the ugly brown brick called Zune.
        wackoae
    • For may people there seems to be enough right

      with the Zune (or wrong with the iPod) to at least put it in the top 3, so what exactlly is your point?

      My guess is that you believe one should buy on the nane, no matter how poorly the product functions for you, as opposed to actually getting your money's worth out of you choice?
      John Zern
      • Zune in the top 3??

        The Zune is around 3 percent market share, hardly the top 3 of anything next to the iPod.

        And Microsoft hardly promotes the Zune anymore (not like they did much before), so why should people care anyway?
        dave95.
  • How do you explain "Google"?

    How many martinis did it take before people started thinking
    that a word such as ?Google? was catchy? This random word
    tell you nothing about the product.

    The only thing that matters is: make a *great* product.
    obvio.capitao
    • Google = "googol" = 1 followed by 100 zeroes,

      or the amount of information that the founders hoped their search engine could handle.

      Granted, not everyone would know that and most everybody who uses Google is not aware of the why for the name "Google", but when a product or service becomes so much a part of the culture and is so ingrained, it doesn't really matter what it's called.
      adornoe1
  • Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division suffers from poor branding

    What a load of crap. This article is nothing more than Microsoft bashing so you can get your Friday pay day.

    [i]look at how the company fouled up the branding of its flagship Windows line.[/i]

    It didn't get fouled up. XP, Vista, Win 7 are all great products. What happened was tech bloggers such as yourself wanted to see Microsoft fail no matter what they released. So then began the articles of bashing Vista even though it was superior to XP in many ways. Luckily and I'm surprised you were able to point out about the Mojave experiment which proved the Microsoft haters wrong. So based on that, nothing fouled up with Vista.

    [i]Seriously, how many martinis did it take before people started thinking that words such as ?Zune? and ?Kin? were catchy?[/i]

    The word Zune is short, easy to pronounce, and rolls right off the tongue. Probably why they chose such a simplistic name. Kin is short for kindred spirit. I think the names work, they all have symbolism. I know you don't want them to name stuff very stupidly like jackedup jackelope, kramped koala, or loony lynx. Talk about a marketing disaster, those names will definitely provide one.

    Branding is the least Microsoft has to worry about. You go into any household and ask if they know the name Microsoft and you will hear a resounding yes. Microsoft is one of the biggest names in the tech industry. Everyone uses a computer, everyone knows about Microsoft. You pick a few rare names that are not within normal consumers vocabulary and run with it. That is just in bad taste.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Branding and problems

      Knowing about a brand vs liking/trusting/respecting/admiring the brand are two VERY different situations.

      Windows/MS does have a brand image problem in some market segments.
      Economister
    • Awwwwww...

      poor LD, someone wrote something critical of MS (Boo hoo, sniff sniff). Sorry to burst your bubble but branding has been a real issue for MS for years. Hell, I remember when "Zune" came out. My first reaction was "WTH is a Zune?" And did you notice how quickly those "WOW" ads got pulled after vista went RTM? Like it or not vista pre-SP1 was unusable crap. How many times was windows live re-branded? and on and on and on... Now go take your Valium and get some rest little boy. Someone will write something nice about MS soon, I'm sure.
      Dave32265
      • Not really

        [i]Sorry to burst your bubble but branding has been a real issue for MS for years.[/i]

        Not really. I gave examples of why this is not true in my previous post.

        [i]And did you notice how quickly those "WOW" ads got pulled after vista went RTM?[/i]

        Yes, to work on the next ad campaign so it doesn't get old and dry.

        [i]Like it or not vista pre-SP1 was unusable crap.[/i]

        Wrong.

        [i]How many times was windows live re-branded? [/i]
        Once or twice, typical behavior for any company to rebrand products.

        [i]Now go take your Valium and get some rest little boy.[/i]

        Drugs are bad mmmkay.
        Loverock Davidson
        • You just keep...

          apologizing for MS. That's fine.

          "Like it or not vista pre-SP1 was unusable crap.

          Wrong."

          Actually this is right. Pre-SP1 it was a memory leaking sieve. Can't begin to tell you how many of my clients complained how slow and irritating it was.

          "How many times was windows live re-branded?
          Once or twice, typical behavior for any company to rebrand products."

          Ummmm more than twice because they were losing ground on search and security.

          Botom line is, until your God (Monkey Boy Ballmer) is ousted and MS' marketing is totally revamped, it will remain a joke.
          Dave32265
          • No apology needed

            Just sorting the facts from fiction.

            [i]Actually this is right. Pre-SP1 it was a memory leaking sieve. Can't begin to tell you how many of my clients complained how slow and irritating it was.[/i]

            I'm going to say none of them said that. What really happened was that you read an article on engadget of a blogger who hates Microsoft anyway and they said it had memory leaks so you decided to follow suit and make the same claim.

            [i]Ummmm more than twice because they were losing ground on search and security.[/i]

            And look at it now, it is quickly rising up the ranks since they rebranded and improved the site. They reworked it to make it more user friendly and functional. I can't see any faults with doing that.

            [i]Botom line is, until your God (Monkey Boy Ballmer) is ousted and MS' marketing is totally revamped, it will remain a joke. [/i]

            I'm guessing your referring to the monkey boy statement as the very famous Microsoft speech that Steve Ballmer gave. Well look at that, you already know their brand name and Steve Ballmer's enthusiasm for the crowd at that speech, so we can conclude that Microsoft's marketing is working as you made this reference. LOL, joke's on you.
            Loverock Davidson
          • Alrighty then...

            "I'm going to say none of them said that. What really happened was that you read an article on engadget of a blogger who hates Microsoft anyway and they said it had memory leaks so you decided to follow suit and make the same claim."

            Hmmmmmm, do you know me or any of my clients? Or have you actually been on their computers? Amazing how you know all of this. I seriously believe you need more than valium my friend LOL

            "I'm guessing your referring to the monkey boy statement as the very famous Microsoft speech that Steve Ballmer gave. Well look at that, you already know their brand name and Steve Ballmer's enthusiasm for the crowd at that speech, so we can conclude that Microsoft's marketing is working as you made this reference. LOL, joke's on you."

            Actually the joke IS MS (Steve "Monkey Boy" Ballmer in particular). I'm sorry, but a CEO of a major corporation dancing around on a stage, sweating like a pig and totally out of breath is undignified and just plain stupid and was rightly maligned for it. I'm sure even Gates was cringing over that one
            Dave32265
          • RE: No apology needed

            I guess you don't apologize when you cash your Microsoft (see - I spelled it right this time) paycheck.
            fatman65535
    • Did you reply to the wrong article by mistake again?

      This article is nothing but an apology for Microsoft, dismissing everything found bad about their products as "people just didn't like the name".


      One thing's for sure, "Lucid Lynx" is a far better name than "internet exploder" (hey look, I can make up incorrect names for things too, you're not alone!)
      AzuMao
  • When people have choice they don't want MS

    Simple - once people see there are viable alternatives, they don't want Microsoft.

    Witness the growth of the Mac (and Linux)
    Witness the death of Windows Mobile
    Witness the dominance of the Wii (vs the Xbox)
    itguy08
    • Ok, I'll bite

      Linux share hasn't changed in years. They still suffer being the lowest common denominator, still barely holding onto 1% of the market.

      Windows Mobile may be in the position for a comeback. We'll see what happens with WP7.

      Honestly, I think the Xbox just plain sucks. I'll agree with you on that one. Not once since the 360 came out has it seen a refresh. Although console gaming sucks all around.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Xbox just plain sucks... objective how?

        Out of the "core gamer" consoles, the Xbox is doing better. The Wii is a freak of nature on which Nintendo have cleverly capitalised. For the serious gamer, Xbox is where strides are being made. Look at Project Natal. That had people's jaws hanging open.


        Let's just hope that when they come to actually brand it, they don't give it a stupid name.
        VulakAerr