Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Is it Live or MSN?

Richard MacManus touches on some of the brand confusion over whether Microsoft web properties should carry the MSN brand or the new Windows Live brand:
Microsoft intends to re-brand MSN as 'MSN Media Network'.

The name 'MSN Media Network' seems a little odd to me. Microsoft has re-branded a lot of other things with the "Live" banner, so I'd imagine something like 'Live Media Network' (LMN) would make more sense.

Perhaps I'm underestimating the value of the MSN brand.
I think there is quite a bit of brand confusion here.

With Microsoft slapping the Live label on everything and its mother and promoting the Windows Live brand as the future of Microsoft's web effort, I'm not sure what happens to the existing MSN properties and well-established MSN brand.

Will MSN Search become Windows Live Search? Will MSN.com redirect to Live.com? If not, will Microsoft try to maintain two brands, Windows Live and MSN? Where is the dividing line? What is the difference? Will users understand that difference?

Back in December 2005, I rashly predicted that "Microsoft will abandon Windows Live." After a bit of a ruckus about that, I elaborated by saying that there is "too much confusion between live.com and msn.com" and that "the MSN brand is too valuable to be diluted with an expensive effort to build up a new Windows Live brand."

Perhaps I am overestimating the value of the MSN brand. Perhaps, at the end of the day, it will be Windows Live that is left standing.

Either way, there can be only one. Few outside of the digerati know about Windows Live right now but, when Microsoft tries to promote this to the mainstream, the brand confusion is going to be severe. Something will have to be done.

Update: Richard MacManus posts a nice followup article, "Microsoft's brand confusion - MSN or Live?"

Update: Another followup from Richard MacManus, "Microsoft admits brand confusion between MSN and Live".


Nathan Weinberg said...

Greg, the value in the MSN brand is in the content network. Of the services, most, like Hotmail, are not associated at all with MSN, or not that closely. As a result, the services will become Windows Live, and the content network will be the MSN Media Network. Microsoft is not abandoning MSN, rather it is putting application development in the Windows division, allowing the full MSN budget and resources to be devoted to improving the content network.

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Nathan. You don't see a branding issue here? Services, content, it's all just "stuff I use" to most people.

Is it wise for Microsoft to pay the cost of promoting and maintaining both brands? Are people going to get confused that some sites are called Windows Live [X] and other sites MSN [Y]?

Heck, I'm confused, and I'm supposedly one of the digerati.

Anonymous said...

Nathan what you said is a great description of the transition, however as Greg points out in his comment, we are the early adopters. We should not be confused at this stage about what Microsoft is planning to do.

This is definitely something I will be giving feedback on.

Anonymous said...

Nathan's explanation is excellent, but I can only echo Greg's concerns - services and content are increasingly becoming one and the same. As I concluded in my post that Greg referenced:

"Why use the Live brand? For example I can see MSN leveraging the Live.com homepage in its next-generation MSN portal rollout. Live.com enables users to add all kinds of media gadgets to their 'homepage', so if you're talking about adding interactivity to MSN - Live.com is a top candidate I would've thought."

Richard MacManus

Anonymous said...

I would hazard a guess that they would let both brands (MSN & Windows Live) roll on for a while. Perhaps they expect Vista to be the tipping point (if Windows Live is deeply integrated with Vista)

Anonymous said...

I will never use Windows Live again.