The need for Windows laptop branding

The need for Windows laptop branding

Summary: We've got MacBooks and Chromebooks, brands that tell the consumer what they are and who makes them. Then there's Windows laptops, the segment without a brand.

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Windows laptops
(Image: Microsoft)

Branding is everything in business. A successful brand resonates with prospective buyers, calls to mind the company that makes the product, and is used in good marketing campaigns to create the desired image for the purchaser. We see these brands in the laptop space. MacBooks come from Apple and Chromebooks come from Google. Unfortunately, there's not a brand for the Windows laptop segment, and that puts it at a disadvantage.

The MacBook brand has been around since the laptops were white plastic models. Apple has been able to leverage marketing around that one brand for years, and it's worked well for the company. There are now MacBook Airs and Pros, but they are all MacBooks. One brand for a whole product line.

The argument can be properly made that the MacBook brand is natural since all of the products it represents come from Apple. That's true, but Google has successfully established the Chromebook brand even though it only makes one of the laptops the brand represents. The other Chromebooks, made by HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Acer, also fall under the Chromebook brand.

With the Chromebook, all advertising pushes the brand no matter if the push comes from Google or the actual laptop vendor. It says Chromebook on the product, and that instantly makes the prospective buyer think of Google and the Chrome platform. 

This single branding is what Windows laptops are missing. There might be a tiny Windows logo somewhere on the product but there's no brand to represent the product. It's always been that way, and that needs to change.

Microsoft would be wise to come up with a brand, WinBook or the like, that can be promoted so that it comes to represent in consumers' minds a laptop with Windows. This is even more true today, with Windows 8 devices appearing the are both tablets and laptops, than in the past when most laptops were pretty much alike.

The new class of Windows devices, sometimes referred to as convertibles, hybrids, and most recently 2-in-1's, need a common brand that consumers come to think of as Windows laptops. Having a unified brand would make all of the offerings coming from Microsoft's partners seem to be a consistent product line. It will be tough for Microsoft to get all the OEMs to play along but it could incentivize them to do so.

A single brand like WinBook or the like would start to paint a mental image of the Windows laptop for prospective buyers. That's a good thing as currently there is no such brand for them to latch onto. Intel tried UltraBook but the average consumer is not aware of it. That's probably because Intel wasn't consistent in its marketing and tried to make it a narrow segment of the total Windows laptop space.

Maybe WinBook is not ideal for this brand, if you have a better one leave it in the comments. It needs to be simple, distinctive, and representative of the Windows laptop space. Something that Microsoft could pitch to the masses to build brand recognition. The folks in Redmond can still pitch their own Surface brand, but they also need a broader brand for all Windows laptops.

See also:

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Microsoft Surface, Windows 8

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70 comments
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  • They already have a brand

    They have something already: t's called Surface. This is a good name for branding. When it is about getting the OEM's use the brand, I'd say that they should stay with Windows.
    Janet010
    • Do Not Understand

      You are correct Surface is a great brand name. They recycled it from a touch table that they made for several years. They basically own the brand name and would not step on some ones toes like they did with Metro. They could sort of control how it is used by others. What I do not understand is why they limit it to only 2 models they make.
      MichaelInMA
    • Branding is for the clueless

      If you make a decision based on brand, you are clueless.
      Fortunately, there are a lot of clueless people for these brand based marketing.
      warboat
      • No, not really.

        When I am shopping for a Windows "branded" computer. I still need to decide which vendor I trust the most. Once I know I want Windows, I have a choice between the "big three": HP, Dell, Lenovo and any number of independents - or, I can even go DIY. I am not clueless just because I pick a vendor I trust. (Usually based upon past experience.)
        M Wagner
        • The purpose of branding

          is to exert a bias on choice.
          Grouping windows laptops as a brand like "Winbook" is like trying to group non-diesel, non-electric, non-LPG cars as a brand. It is pointless.
          warboat
    • Surface?

      Surface IS NOT A LAPTOP.
      radu.m
      • One might argue that it is (or can be)

        It has an available keyboard cover. It is marketed to be used in landscape mode. The Surface Pro is virtually indistinguishable from a MacBook Air (except of course for Windows instead of Max OS X).
        M Wagner
    • +1

      this.
      goombawa
  • Great point James

    but I would not leave any branding decision up to Microsoft. They flip flop and recycle naming way too much to be effective or trusted.

    Get together with the OEMs and come up with several classifications of laptops.

    Something for high end use: ultrabooks already there
    Something for gaming devices
    Something for entry level devices
    Something for mid range devices


    You are right that currently windows devices are a sea of confusion with too many choices, branding and naming going on.
    Emacho
    • You are right

      ... remember Zune. Great product, but Microsoft disbanded the group just before releasing it's best product yet, then let the brand wither due to lack of attention.
      roteague
    • yes, but

      Not even "ultra books" have common brand. They could at least have had some "ultra book" label... or such.

      That market is severely ruined. Apple was able to do it, because they are very persistent and have been refining the PowerBook, iBook, MacBook etc for over two decades. Google was wise to start with the Chrome brand and extend it to Book, Box, Cast, etc.

      But, there is no way Windows vendors can unite, except if an external party does it. Intel tried, but again... not much visibility. Everyone keeps the old mantra -- promoting their very own brand.
      danbi
  • They may

    Well mostly all be Winpads before long, aren't we supposed to be in the post pc era?
    yofuss
    • SUPPOSED TO BE ... yes. More Windws PCs (of all types) were sold ...

      ... in the last two quarters than iPads were sold in the last 3.5 years. AND, more iPads have been sold to date than Macintosh computers over the last 28 years!

      For every PC than is REPLACED by a tablet, the equivalent amount of computing power is placed into the cloud to support that table.

      The work has to be done somewhere and all tablets are dependent upon the cloud to do the heavy lifting. Most of those cloud resources are Windows servers.
      M Wagner
  • No its about creating a WANT

    Apple has been successful not just because of their products. But because of their marketing, and their ability to inspire that impulse buyer in many people. Today's products is all about that. Microsoft keeps trying to create a need over the iPad for their Surface. Its really about creating a want over the iPad for the Surface. That is even a tougher task given the lack of good marketing at Microsoft. The ideal is not to prove your product is better, but rather instill in a buyer the want to have it. Steve Jobs was brilliant at selling, and created a marketing strategy that made people stand in line for days sometimes for a product. Microsoft cannot even get good press these days on its products. Nobody cares, and nobody wants.
    JohnnyES
    • The impulse buy only works once

      You don't get repeat customers on it. Witness Hollywood. Most of their movies have a huge opening weekend, then drop off the map.

      If you want staying power and repeat business, you have to turn the customer into a fan. And marketing won't do that, only perceived value.
      baggins_z
      • "Perceived value" IS marketing

        Example, you can buy a 15" 4GB Windows notebook running an Intel Core i3 and containing a 500GB HDD for around $350. A 16GB iPad costs $499.

        The a5" Windows notebook is clearly more bang for the buck but it comes in a black plastic case. The 9.6" iPad is all shiny and "sexy looking". It's perceived value has nothing to do with the capabilities of the device (Android has proved that you don't need to spend $500 for a quality device).

        I totally agree though that repeat business is your friend. Apple knows how to foster those relationships.

        People are not loyal to HP or Dell or Lenovo. They are not even all that loyal to Microsoft. but they ARE incredibly loyal to Apple.

        Now that Jobs (the marketing genius that he was) is gone. I do not expect Apple to continue to maintain that kind of loyalty.
        M Wagner
    • This is the thing that's fundamentally wrong with Apple.

      Yes, they make "good" products. But they're sold on the basis of desirability, not on the basis of whether they meet the user's needs. Indeed, users tend to think that what Apple supplies is exactly what they want.
      GrizzledGeezer
      • On the contrary

        Apple sells their product more or less with this strategy "here is our stuff, it costs this much, no bargaining, we think it is the best there is". Now, some people like bargaining. They won't buy anything unless it is "discounted". Apple does not even attempt to sell to those people.

        But once you get to experience an Apple product, you begin to understand it's value and want it. Because, all Apple products are good value. One of the ways Apple achieves this is they don't try to sell all kinds of products and at all levels -- only what can be made well and sustainable. Another "trick" of Apple is to promise less and deliver more. This creates confidence, that whatever Apple offers will be good. Even if there are glitches sometimes, this is generally very true -- unlike almost all other vendors.
        danbi
        • Apple knows their customers ...

          ... and they cater to them. This is why Apple is making a big mistake by chasing market share. Lower price-points mean smaller profits. Smaller profits mean less money for innovation.

          The Google model is patterned after the Microsoft model. Let someone else build and sell the product at cutthroat prices. Continue to innovate and keep your profits up by selling licenses in very large volumes.
          M Wagner
        • Brand loyalty

          Apple relies on blissful ignorance to maintain brand loyalty. That's it!
          I deal with Apple users everyday repairing their gear. Most of them are clueless and buy Apple because they have no clue what to choose and Apple seems like a cool brand to go with. Once they own it, they defend their choice until the day they take a look outside the Apple world and realise they have been eating prison food.
          warboat