Tone-deaf Branding.

MS-iPod Robert Scoble, God bless him, is willing to tell the truth about Microsoft and Branding. Let’s compare and contrast Microsoft’s and Apple’s branding:

Microsoft: Windows XP Home Edition SP2

Apple: OS-X

Microsoft: Wireless Optical Desktop Pro (keyboard + mouse)

Apple: Apple Keyboard/Apple Mighty Mouse

Microsoft: WIndows Media Player 10

Apple: iTunes

Microsoft: Windows XP Media Edition

Apple: iLife

Don’t get me wrong…I love Microsoft products. I use them daily. I’ve used Apple products, too. I don’t find Apple products to be universally technically superior to their Microsoft equivalents. Some are better. Some are not. However, Microsoft’s marketing is so bad as to be embarassing. And they know it, too. That video that’s been circulating the web, showing how Microsoft would redesign the iPod box if it were their product? It came from inside Microsoft.

Here’s a little factoid for you…Microsoft DOES have some cool names. “Word” is a great name for a word processing product. “Excel” is a great name for their spreadsheet. “Visio” doesn’t count – they bought that company/product with the name already in place. Even more telling, they have some great names for their products in development. “Sparkle” is an insanely great name for a user interface/animation/user interface app-building program. (Pity it won’t be called that. The new name is “Microsoft Expression Interactive Designer.”

A friend of mine once said if his company (HP) were to market sushi, they’d call it “cold, dead fish.” Microsoft would do them one better, with something like “Reduced-temperature, decomposing, aquatic creature edition SP2.”
I suspect the problem is not the marketing guys at Microsoft. I know some Microsofties, and they are a talented bunch. I don’t think Microsoft would hire boneheads for marketing guys. Unfortunately, I DO think they have the propellerheads running the show, turning great branding ideas into marketing by second-guessing, techie types. Here’s a riddle for you…do you know what the definition of a “camel” is? It’s a “horse” designed by a committee. Microsoft branding (and packaging) has the fingerprints of design-by-committee all over it.

What’s the solution? Put the marketing guys in charge of marketing, and the tech guys in charge of what they do best – technology. Either that, or we’re all going to be thinking about cold dead fish when we could be enjoying sushi.

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