November 9, 2006
Brand Naming: The Zune and Microsoft
There is a lot of discussion about how Microsoft seems to be trying to distance the brand name Zune from its own corporate name.
Why? Microsoft knows that it has to appeal to the 18-24 hipster market with these devices and (possibly correctly) feels that its own name is too nerdy to promote effectively to the cool kids.
Meanwhile, the Zune player is also being shoved aside at point of sale, where Apple and its myriad of accessories reign supreme. Apple lovers are having a field day tearing apart Zune, but maybe, just maybe, they should hold their fire.
The introduction of Zune.net and its fairly earthy, interesting promotion of indie art could, in the long run, make the Zune an alternative name in entertainment — and in this world, alternative culture often gets to be the mainstream leaders. Just ask Apple. And maybe it's a good strategy.
For the time being, however, I will go out on a limb and say that nobody can out-Apple Apple.
Apple simply owns the cool and funky mp3 player space and pretending to be like Apple is an uphill battle. It is also self defeating: the Mac Daily News (with some smugness) notes that it seems illogical for Microsoft to build so much into the Vista name, which is obviously music-friendly.
So maybe Microsoft should embrace the fact that everyone knows their name.
Maybe they should embrace their inner geek and the hundreds of millions of geeks who use their products daily.
Yes, Microsoft does tend to silo its projects and they are probably right when they say that each brand name should have its own personality. But they seem to be trying to pigeon hole the Zune name alongside the "cool factor" of Xbox 360.
Meanwhile, they have a juggernaut brand name that is being ignored. The 800 pound gorilla in this room is Windows. There are many, many Windows lovers out there and the Zune could add value to that.
If Microsoft can create a synergy between Windows, Vista, Soapbox, X-Box 360 and Zune, then the ball will be in Apple's court. If they can bring the same cool factor that I'm seeing on Zune.net and make an all in one computing/communication/entertainment package out of it under a name we all know, well, then I’d be interested.
Until they do it, though, I think many will remain loyal to their iPods.
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