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Monday, 22 September 2014

Microsoft branding



Microsoft leaked recently that it would be dropping the Nokia branding from its products along with Windows Phone. Instead, we’d be treated with Lumia phones running Windows. This doesn’t really sound like a big deal on the face of it, but it’s worth mentioning that perhaps Microsoft is being a little hasty.
Personally, I think both of these moves make perfect sense. Microsoft is not, in fact, Nokia. Nokia as a company still exists. They’re the one’s making Android launchers for…whatever reason. But it’s also the force behind Here Maps, which is pretty darn nice navigation software if I do say so myself. But anyway, Nokia is not in the mobile device making market any more, so having the name Nokia on the top bezel of a phone didn’t make a whole lot of sense in the grand scheme of things.

windows-phone-8-RTDropping the phone

Dropping “Windows Phone” branding makes a little less sense, but the marketshare is so small at the moment, that if you’re going to rebrand, rebrand now. This is kind of like when you adopt a puppy from a shelter, and the six month old puppy already has a name. If you decide to do so early, you can change the puppy’s name from Froo-froo to Killer, and the dog will quickly get over its confusion. Well, translating dog years to marketshare isn’t quite as seamless an analogy as I usually go for, but if you only have to retrain 4% of the world, that’s better than 15%.
So there’s definitely opportunity here to do whatever you want to both brand names with minimal fallout. After all, neither of them is exactly catapulting you to the stratosphere in terms of sales, so when in doubt consolidate. Amirite?

And yet…

But isn’t Microsoft just giving up of the two brands that are helping it the most. I’ve said before that when people buy Nokia phones, they’re not buying because of Windows Phone, they’re buying because of Nokia. Nokia has a long-standing tradition of quality in the phone space, and just abandoning that in favor of a brand that’s one letter off from discontinued car may not be the best business practice. If I were Microsoft, I’d hold on to that Nokia name just as long as I could, because anything that benefits sales is a good thing.
As for Windows Phone, maybe it’s not necessarily helping Windows Phone sales per se, but it’s not hurting them either. Not like Windows 8 is hurting the PC market. When you have PC OEMs advertising that they’ll still sell you a Windows 7 computer, that’s bad news. Windows Phone on the other hand isn’t the deterrent to phones that Windows 8 is to PC’s. Rather it’s a point of intrigue as best or indifference at worst. But slapping the label of just ‘Windows’ on a phone is going to bring those Windows 8 connotations along with it.

Nokia's Windows Phone 8 powered Lumia 820.Not the same…yet

Plus, I don’t necessarily agree with the thinking behind just calling its phone operating system ‘Windows’. At least not until we get to the point where Windows on a phone is the same as Windows on a PC is the same as Windows on a tablet. This has the potential to just confuse consumers who, let’s face it, are often confused. If an app developer says their app is available for Windows, a bunch of Surface owners are going to get awfully mad when they try to download Flappy Bird’s Revenge on their tablets, only to find out they meant Windows on Phones, not Windows on tablets. You know what that’s going to do? Generate support emails. Which is good for my day job security, but not good for actual customers.
So what do you think? Is Microsoft right to shed the names of the past in an attempt to build its own brand going forward? Or do you think it makes the most sense to hold onto the reputation of ‘Nokia’, and the lack of angst of ‘Windows Phone’? Now remember, you need to debate with your head, not your heart. I know a lot of us, myself included, hold a special place for Nokia in our hearts. But we need to divorce ourselves of those special places and really think this through from a business standpoint. So tuck away your special places, and post in the comments below and let’s see if we can figure this out.
Leader image source: Gadgettweet

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