Friday, June 02, 2006

Microsoft Brands

A fundamental lesson you learn in Marketing 101 is that it is rarely a good idea to brand a product with a generic name. In other words, you can’t just put some tap water in a pretty bottle, invent a snazzy logo and brand it as “Water”.

Marketers often invent completely new words like “Kodak” or “iPod” for their product. If they feel like they need a generic word, they usually misspell it slightly to give it a distinctive feel. Like “ReNu” or “Embarq” or “Chex”.

But if your title is “The Richest Man in the World” (seriously, that’s what’s on his business card), you don’t have to follow conventional wisdom.

So when Microsoft created their new graphical operating system based on a series of windows that allowed multi-tasking, they named their product, uh, “Windows”. Real catchy, huh?

Seizing the opportunity to establish new standards of chutzpah in name branding, they created a pretty cool word processor and named it “Word”.

They didn’t stop there. Their graphics program is called “Paint”. Their project management software is “Project”. Want a calculator? They’ve got one. It’s called “Calculator”. If you want to explore the Internet, you’ll need a program called “Explorer”. Want to edit a photo? Try “Photo Editor”. And if you have some media that you want to play, the best choice is a little ditty they call “Media Player”.

If you have an office in which you want to run most of these software programs, you’ll find they’ve been neatly combined into a nifty little package named “Office”.

About the only time they actually came up with anything original is when they developed presentation software. For some reason that I’ve never understood, it’s called “PowerPoint”. I guess you use it to make a powerful point. I dunno.

I’ve decided that I’m going to compete against Microsoft on their own turf. I’m going to write the world’s greatest graphics-based word processor. It will be three times better than “Word” — much more granular. I’m going to name it “Syllable”. Or maybe “Alphabet”.

My lawyer told me that I needed to end with the following disclaimer: The trademarks mentioned in this article are the property of their respective owners. In other words, the people who own them are the people who own them — even the words that should be generic terms but for some inane reason, Bill Gates has determined that we should capitalize them when we are speaking of his domain.

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