Microsoft’s Branding Mess Claims Another Victim: “Windows Live Expo”

News broke today that Microsoft is phasing out its Craigslist competitor attempt "Windows Live Expo". My goodness WLE, we hardly knew (of) you…

It’s no wonder this site failed so completely, Microsoft’s branding is 100% wrong and horrible: Meaningless, confusing, too long/not snappy enough, unmemorable, etc. etc.

They don’t get branding at all. I wonder if they’ll ever get off the "MS" and "Windows" train. If not, NOT A SINGLE ONE of their web properties thus branded will EVER have a chance to fully succeed. It cannot happen since it is against every principle of branding psychology.

There needs to be a simple answer to the question: "What’s a ____?"

Everyone and their dog knows the answer to "What’s a Craigslist?"

"Windows Live Expo"? Not so much. What does a classified ad site have to do with "Windows" (which presumably is an operating system)? Nothing. The entire "Windows Live" idea is horrible, but even if it had worked for anything else, this would only create brand dilution.

And "Expo"? What does an expo(sition) (i.e. a trade show or other exhibition) have to do with classified ads? NOTHING.

The idea that things can be subsumed under one’s current, possibly large and powerful brand is a very common mistake and self-deception with large companies. The logic is "our brand is powerful, why not extend it to this next project/product/etc.?" (And this is for obvious reasons very hard to argue against in internal meetings, as no one wants to appear to belittle the power of one’s "tribe"/brand.)

Here’s why it doesn’t work: Because the original brand if it worked at all was built up in the minds of the public as tied to the category that it competes in. Notice in this context that Microsoft’s other flag-ship, near-monopoly product, the "Office" productivity suite and even its sub-components, is named "MS Office" and NOT "Windows Office".

Microsoft would in fact have been better of naming the classified ad site e.g. "TheList by Microsoft" or some such thing, pretty much anything would have worked better than what they chose.

And notice that none of this has anything to do with the technology execution of the site. It’s just human psychology. Cheers!

Micro-hoo: A Bad Idea – Branding and Positioning Issues

Some comments I wrote today on this Silicon Alley Insider post on new movements in the Microsoft-Yahoo negotiations ballooned to the point that I determined they would be worth their own expanded post for the benefit of my readers.

More so because they were veering head-long into serious "Business Mind Hacks" psychology issues related to Branding and Positioning.

In response to Henry Blodget’s focusing on the admittedly titillating details of the current negotiations, while mentioning only in passing the likely pernicious effects of the deal in its currently proposed form on both Yahoo and MSFT, I said this:

Why would Henry say "but that’s a different story"?

That is THE story… forget about the short-term, short-sighted, Wall Street angle… none of it will matter if Q1/2009 shows that Micro-hoo has fallen even further behind Google in search/paid search due to all of the distractions that are sure to ensue if this goes through.

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