November 14, 2005
@ 06:16 PM

Due to Windows Live, a bunch of us at MSN (the Windows Live division?) have been inundiated with lots of internal marketing and presentations around branding. One thing that this has convinced me of is that we (Microsoft) are totally inept when it comes to branding. The fact that till today nobody can quite answer What is .NET? (a managed runtime? server software? web services? all of the above?) is a testament to our generally cluelessness in this area. I sincerely hope the same thing doesn't happen with "Live" but only time will tell.

On a related note, for some reason I've had a couple of idle lunchtime conversations with different people on what they think about XBox. Somewhat surprisingly to me, many employees at Microsoft are quick to deride MSN for being a "money losing division" even though we are now profitable but yet in the same breath have nothing but praise for XBox which is billions of dollars in the red. When I've probed for reasons for this disconnect, the answer has been usually one of either (i) it was a "big bet" to get Microsoft in the living room or (ii) it adds something cool to the Microsoft brand. The latter is what I find interesting. Since people started mentioning this I've started paying attention to mentions of Microsoft in XBox ads and websites. 

What I've noticed is that there is little mention of Microsoft when it comes to XBox. If you visit, you have to scroll down before you see a mention of Microsoft and even then it's in the small print. TV spots for XBox 360 such as Jump In and Water Balloons don't mention Microsoft at all. Why not? My pet theory is that the guys behind XBox know the truth. XBox is cool. Microsoft is not. Thus mentioning Microsoft in XBox ads would actually taint their brand. Of course, if I'm right there goes the theory of a bunch of my coworkers about XBox boosting the "cool factor" of the Microsoft brand.


Monday, November 14, 2005 10:12:26 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Actually, I think the cluelessness, IMO, must be directed at the marketing of Windows and the MSN products.

My view of MSN is of an agile division, daring - apart from the lack of tabbed browsing in your MSN Explorer product, and pretty innovative.

If you look at the MSN Spaces product, none of the capabilities are really one or two clicks away.

And you're right: the message, if any is very muddled.

Furthermore, the marketing of Windows has to be both viral, a la XBox, and also bring the WIIFM factor to the forefront.

In a virtual nanosecond, it has to demonstrate what it is, why it's a must-have, and I must aspire to have it.

And above all, it has to be COOL, or make users feel they have the latest gift from the tech gods.

The XBox team has it, especially with the hex168 campaign.

John Obeto
Omo Eko
Monday, November 14, 2005 11:25:20 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
So does this mean they'll stop saddling projects with names like "Microsoft Media Center Professional 2005 for Tablet Server Edition .NET"?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005 1:14:02 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Are you serious about why such a disconnect exists between how people feel about the track record of MSN vs. Xbox?

One has built an extremly cool and loved product/brand and given the industry leader a serious run for the money. People love it and its setting the industry direction, not following it. It gives MSFT folks something they can believe in. Microsoft bring out a 'cool' brand... in the 2000's? Crazy!

The other has a long track record of missing the boat completely and running up debt. And its not profitable. Perhaps in the yearly P&L sense, but not in the balance sheet sense.

Exercise to the reader to determine which is which.
Why the disconnect?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005 1:17:16 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I was just reading
before reading this post. I think MSN is going to get cooler, let's hope people will get more passionate about it....
Tuesday, November 15, 2005 8:20:25 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
This is something we learned long ago in macbu.

Check out the Macbu web site:

quick, how small is that Microsoft text :-).
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 2:54:02 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I'm not a fan of that .NET page - when I was a student, pages like that confused the life out of me. I used to think "Hmm.. .Net is this web services thing. Let me keep coding on Vb 6 and my C++ Windows application".
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 2:55:13 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Btw - common *external* opinion is that MSN is cool and agile - probably due to Spaces, Search and all the other goodies coming out of MSN. Interesting disconnect between internal and external opinions :)
Thursday, November 17, 2005 7:27:45 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
The original Xbox barely mentions Microsoft at all. Here's a challenge - find the MS logo on your Xbox.

You'll find it on the bottom-right corner of the front panel, recessed into the texturing. It's about 3mm high - only a little larger than the Dolby Digital logo. The controllers only mention MS as the manufacturer on the sticker on the back. The DVD remote and memory unit don't mention MS at all. The boot screen shows it for 3 seconds, at the bottom of the screen, at about 1/20th the height of the screen, i.e. pretty small.
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