Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Monday, December 11, 2006

When Is A Brand Not A Brand?

Buzzwords permeate language faster than ever. With their spread, there often comes a misconception as to their original meaning and underlying logic. In the technical realm, people often add the disclaimer that they don't really understand them, but people believe they understand what marketing is and thus the dispersal of false assumptions is much more rapid in our field.

I don't know what killed Front Page but this Scoble post allows me to focus on some terminology usages that have entered public parlance in recent years.

When Microsoft asked developers about Front Page, I would argue that their reaction was not to a "brand" but to a product - specifically some publishing software that I've never used but which apparently was seen to be associated with code changes and lack of awareness of user needs.

To these people, the name Front Page evokes thoughts of a software experience and seemingly a not very good one. Thus, it is entirely wise not to create other Front Page product variants as they would be tarred with the same brush of product associations.

However when I read of "killing the brand" I immediately infer a worrying implication that the image is wrong while the product is passable. This "branding as paint job" school of thought is all too prevalent and leads to a mistrust of marketing on the part of both consumers and non-marketers within your business and a lack of user-focus on the part of marketers.

A recycled version of the product would not suffer from the Front Page name but, unless dramatic changes were made, the user experience would presumably be similar and the new brand would go the same way as the previous one. Such changes have to be significant because even if the product is re-tooled to work very well, any vestiges of the feel of the old product will unfairly trigger the old reactions in users' minds.

Not only does the product have to be different, the whole experience has to be distanced from the old one and this highlights the error of talking of branding. People buy the product to help them to publish so if you build them that, then almost regardless of what it's called or how it's packaged (as long as this doesn't impact the actual usage experience) then the product will get a following and a brand will grow around the emotions and experiences that it generates.

The brand follows the user experience and not the other way round and it is the deficiencies in that experience (magnified perhaps by the rise of alternatives in the form of blogging software) that denuded Front Page. Microsoft did not kill the brand, they merely buried it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've inadvertantly ascribed greater importance to the concept of a brand and the resonance it has with consumers by admitting the point that using the Front Page name again would present an uphill struggle.
This lends credibility to the fact that the equity that Front Page has in the market (sadly for Microsoft, an integer!), would be a troublesome hurdle to overcome...even if the product was vastly improved.
To me, this is illuminating. I think that the notion of a brand is still very much 'a consumer's constantly evolving collection of perceptions about a products or service'. And that a brand can and often does exist in some nether region outside of the product or service's relative merit...for a while anyway.

9:58 AM, February 20, 2007  

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