Sunday, December 28, 2008

MSN Brand Audit

Microsoft Network (MSN), also known as LIVE is a distant 3rd in Web site traffic, behind Yahoo and Google. In most portal categories MSN aka LIVE is competitive; it is the search service where it lags far behind the leaders. My WVU survey reveals that neither MSN nor LIVE have much brand awareness as search services.

There is great opportunity for MSN to increase revenues, though, because Google is not a commanding presence in portal services other than search. Likewise, Yahoo is struggling to maintain operations and is unable to keep current with advancing technology. Neither Google nor Yahoo have Social Capital with the most lucrative audience for Web advertising, “Strategic Buyers.” Microsoft does and this is also an important audience to Microsoft because of its vulnerability to Open Source, Software as a Service and other future industry directions.

For the complete brand audit with all recommendations see Redmond Review MSN Audit

Saturday, December 27, 2008

MSN Brand Exploratory

In a brand exploratory, Keller (2008, p 129) advises us to seek out prior research studies. EBSCOHOST has proved a valuable tool in this regards and analysis by Tancer, Rosoff and Chickakowski, among others provided real insight into the external, customer perceptions of the brand. In addition, Keller (p 129) recommends that interviews with internal personnel have a high payoff. While not able to do this, I did survey WVU students.

Products and Services
MSN/LIVE has two audience categories, the site visitors and advertisers. It has services for both. With MSN/LIVE, the most important audience is site visitors because without them, the advertisers will have no interest. The finding I have made in this brand exploratory is that site visitors like Google and Yahoo while advertisers like MSN.

External Perception of the Brand
According to Rosoff (2006, p 2), the MSN reputation suffers with site visitors. MSN has ranked last in a 2001 Consumer Reports customer satisfaction survey. Rosoff holds that MSN deploys technology for its own sake, which can decrease customer satisfaction with the site. He also finds that MSN editorial content needs improvement.

The MSN/LIVE search service is held to be full featured but the general public does perceive some deficiencies. It is interesting to note that both MSN and Yahoo used the same search engine, Inktomi, until 2004 when Yahoo bought Inktomi. Microsoft then developed its own search engine for MSN. Wall (2006, p 2) finds that MSN search does a poor job at link analysis and therefore its results have less relevancy than Yahoo or Google, as well as a bias to rank commercial sites too high.

Likewise, there are some areas of concern with Hotmail, be it called MSN or Windows LIVE Hotmail. Arrington (2007, p 1) finds that while it has an intuitive interface it has slow responsiveness. What is worse, MSN deletes all mail information every 30 days if the consumer does not login. Rafferty (2006, p 1) expressed concern with this policy when he lost important documentation as a result.

On the other hand, the general public holds MSNBC in high regards. IQ69 reports (2008, p 1) that MSNBC took the top spot in the University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey. However, the ACSI survey did note that there does not appear to be a clear differentiator between news services and the leading brands are bunched together.

One specific public of interest is “strategic buyers.” Large corporations have made significant investments in the Microsoft franchise. They have end-users trained on mission critical systems that use Microsoft technology. They have trained their help-desk staff on Microsoft technology. They probably have significant Microsoft investment in the server room and with their application development staff as well.

Most importantly, Microsoft has the social capital of existing, defined relationships that make transactions easy to accomplish. Microsoft sales teams visit “strategic buyers” periodically and promptly answer phone calls. Microsoft is very good at relationship marketing. Every sales team has an architectural engineer assigned to it with the mission of understanding the information technology plan of assigned corporations, their enterprise architecture and how to advantageously apply Microsoft technology to affect solutions.

Competitive Environment from an Exploratory Viewpoint
MSN Competitive Exploratory

Marketing Support from an Exploratory Viewpoint
MSN Marketing Support Exploratory

An MSN, Yahoo and Google Perceptual Map

References
Arrigngton, Michael (February 8, 2007). Tech Crunch. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/02/08/a-comparison-of-live-hotmail-gmail-and-yahoo-mail/all-comments/

Chickowski, Erica (02/08/2008). Brand Identities After a Microsoft and Yahoo Deal. Baseline. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Messaging-and-Collaboration/Brand-Identities-After-a-Microsoft-Yahoo-Deal/1/

IQ69 (August 14, 2008). Yahoo tops Google in customer satisfaction survey. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://iq69.com/index.php/2007/08/14/yahoo-tops-google-in-customer-satisfaction-survey/

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Rosoff, M (October 23, 2006). The Future of MSN. Directions on Microsoft. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://www.directionsonmicrosoft.com/sample/DOMIS/update/2006/11nov/1106tfom.htm#top

Tancer, Bill (August 3, 2006). Google, Yahoo! and MSN: Brand Association. Hitwise Intelligence. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://weblogs.hitwise.com/bill-tancer/2006/08/google_yahoo_and_msn_brand_ass.html

Wall, Aaron (June 13, 2006). How Search Engines Work: Search Engine Relevancy Reviewed. Search Engine Optimization. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://www.seobook.com/relevancy/%23short

MSN Marketing Support Programs Exploratory

Keller (2008, p 131) emphasizes the importance of marketing support programs, especially for establishing the points of parity and points of difference. This is essential to moving to desired brand equity.

Place
Microsoft has a small problem with place for some of its MSN sub-brands. The introduction of the Windows LIVE brand for some of the MSN branded properties means there are two places to go for MSN services. As an example, consider MSN Search and Windows LIVE Search. You can go to http://www.msn.com to begin a search using Microsoft search technology, or to http://www.live.com/default.aspx?form=MSNH11 .

Both sites use the same search engines. Both parent brands are applied to the sub-brands. In most cases analysts such as Rosoff and Tancer refer to Microsoft Online Services using the MSN brand rather than Windows LIVE. 75% of my classmates prefer the Windows LIVE brand to the MSN brand and the remaining 25% are indifferent to Microsoft in general. Only 12.5% were aware of MSN as a brand.

Price
The pricing of site visitor services is free while the price advertisers pay is based on the type of ad and a bid process that incorporates click through rates in the costing algorithm. MSN is perceived to be fair in its pricing of advertising. Advertisers are in fact concerned about potential pricing abuse by Google and Yahoo.

According to Harrison (2008, p 1) 400 advertisers have filed a complaint against Google and Yahoo with the U.S. Justice Department. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) comments that Yahoo and Google erode competition with the potential for higher advertising prices. In the final analysis however, Agarwal (2006, p 1) summarizes that while advertisers like MSN technology and price, they don’t plan to spend more with the search portal because it does not draw as much traffic as Google.

Promotion
Brandweek (2000, p 1) awarded MSN a Silver Award for its marketing tactic to sponsor the NYC Road Runners Club and the NYC marathon. As mentioned in section two, sponsorship is an important aspect of MSN marketing support. In addition, Carter (2005, p 1) commends MSN’s masterful incorporation of TV and online advertising with events to promote the MSN brand. MSN promotion is given high marks by external analysts.

Personalization
Elkins (2001, p 1) quotes ad execs, “MSN’s strategy of customizing ad programs to marketers’ specific needs is what company officials hope will give it an edge.” Thus personalization is another marketing support program tactic used by MSN. Furthermore, MSN personalization is held in high regard by advertisers.

References
Agarwal, Amit (May 03, 2006). Bloomberg spoils the MSN Advertising party in Redmond. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://labnol.blogspot.com/2006/05/bloomberg-spoils-msn-advertising-party.html

Brandweek (04/03/2000). Silver Awards. Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Carter, B (2/5/2005). MSN takes on Google with search engine launch. Marketing. Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Harrison, Todd (September 8, 2008). Are Yahoo and Google playing Monopoly? Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://blogs.moneycentral.msn.com/topstocks/archive/2008/09/08/are-yahoo-and-google-playing-monopoly.aspx

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Kirk, Jeremy (10/31/2008). Google introduces service-level guarantee for its Apps suite. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://www.thestandard.com/news/2008/10/31/google-introduces-service-level-guarantee-its-apps-suite

MSN Competitive Environment Exploratory

Ethical Concerns about MSN Paid Placement Tactics vice Google
McLaughlin criticized Microsoft MSN for its Paid Placement tactics while giving Google accolades (2002, p 116) for their class and morality. For Microsoft, she only says “others, like MSN, do a poor job.” MSN was charged with two counts: 1.) Mixing real content with paid placement to misinform users of its search engine with annoying search results; and 2.) Rigging search results (p 121-2) by low-ranking competitors, for example travel sites, while high ranking their own, like Expedia. Google gets high marks (p 117) in its handling of paid placement.

Paid Inclusion, different from paid placement, is a shakedown racket. Yahoo for example, charges $299 so its spider does not “miss” a company’s Website. Google firmly opposes Paid Inclusion (McLaughlin, 2002, p 123).

Google Offers Software as a Service and it has a Service Level Agreement
Kirk (2008, p 1) reports that Google is offering a service level guarantee for users of its Google Apps suite. This suite is a direct attack on Microsoft’s revenue stream and it is offered free, supported by advertising revenue. This Service Level Agreement is a move to attract corporate customers and Microsoft must address it with its own Software as a Service through MSN. Google does not have extensive social capital with corporate customers and this is an advantage Microsoft can leverage, at least for now.

Yahoo Struggling
Hardy (2006, p 1) notes that Yahoo is struggling to keep up with MSN and Google. The cost of keeping current with the relentless advance of technology is proving too much. The Associated Press (2008, p 1) goes on to say that Yahoo has deep concerns over its viability now that Google has withdrawn its offer to support Yahoo with advanced technology. Google made that offer during the recent Microsoft-Yahoo merger negotiations.

Content editors: MSN versus Google
Rosoff (p 2) notes that MSN is a destination site that supports edited content. MSN has skilled editors collate collections of information. Other MSN brands also use content editors to manage information collections germane to the brand. On the other hand, Google is merely a platform for visitors who want to set up their own links to information. This information can be aggregated from other web sites or from RSS feeds.

The advantage of content editors is that they can represent a community of interest (COI) and create and provide access to information specific to that COI. The COI then has a place to go for the information they need that has been vetted for relevance and credibility. It reduces the noise in their searches for information and increases the trustworthiness of what they do find.

Analysis of Search Service Offerings at Google, Yahoo and MSN
Google and Yahoo are the search portal market leaders today for an Internet characterized as an Aristocratic network. This is to say that a small number of nodes (like Google and Yahoo) are “super-connected” so that most people visit these sites. However, physicist Mark Buchanan’s report (2002, p 124-7) on mathematical studies of networks that show the phase of “super-connected” hubs (such as Google and Yahoo today) eventually gives way to more egalitarian networks from the simple processes of history and growth. Many nodes connect to Yahoo or Google as a start to searching out information. However, Buchanan’s conclusion on networks is that “Whenever limitations or costs eventually come into play to impede the richest getting still richer, then a small-world network becomes more egalitarian, as seems to be the case with airports and a number of other real-world networks.”

Niche search sites have established themselves as a brand. Today’s two largest super-connected nodes on the Internet, Google and Yahoo get the majority of advertising revenue. However, the trends in marketing may also be working against the continuation of the current aristocratic nature of the Internet.

Marketing is moving away from the mass advertising of the same message to a large audience. According to Duncan (2005, pp 211-212) the value of the Internet is the ability to send custom messages to highly targeted customer segments. The reach of a specific message to a small but coherent group is higher than a general and therefore mostly irrelevant message to a large group. As the ability to identify and verify audience characteristics for smaller, specialty sites improves, advertising revenue may shift from Google and Yahoo to this new direction.

The message to Google and Yahoo is that super-connected nodes don’t last. Just as the few air network super hubs gave way to geographically dispersed regional hubs, so will the Internet. In short, Google and Yahoo are vulnerable as Amazon is already exploiting. MSN, like Amazon, has the opportunity to move profitably into the future of software services, if it acts appropriately.

Finally, Yahoo is already fading fast. They foolishly rejected Microsoft’s overly generous offer earlier this year, and now on their own again they seem to have lost control. Their stock price has fallen from $30 per share six months ago to $8 per share today (see Yahoo, 2008b, p 1). Significant employees have left the company.

Mail comparison: Google the best
Agarwal (2007, p 1) compares MSN Mail, Yahoo Mail and Google Mail according to five characteristics: 1.) User Interface; 2.) Spam Controls; 3.) Storage Space; 4.) Speed; and 5.) Advertisements. His findings are that Google Gmail is the winner in four categories: 1.) Spam Controls; 2.) Storage Space; 4.) Speed; and 4.) Advertisements. Yahoo!Mail has the best User Interface. He also notes that the Windows LIVE Mail or MSN Hotmail has bugs in it, has poor performance and makes egregious use of advertising.

Site visitors prefer Google and Yahoo while advertisers prefer MSN
The Experian/Hitwise survey (see Tancer, 2008, p 1) clearly shows that site visitors prefer Yahoo and Google ahead of MSN for the search and portal services being offered. Advertisers, to the contrary, prefer MSN. Blank (2006, p 1) cites numerous media firms and marketing research companies that express a decided preference for Microsoft. However, as Agarwal (2006, p 1) notes, advertisers pay more for Google and Yahoo because of the higher traffic count.

References
Agarwal, Amit (May 03, 2006). Bloomberg spoils the MSN Advertising party in Redmond. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://labnol.blogspot.com/2006/05/bloomberg-spoils-msn-advertising-party.html

Agarwal, Amit (February 05, 2007). Yahoo! Mail vs GMail vs Windows Live Mail. Retrieved on December 3, 2008 from http://labnol.blogspot.com/2007/02/yahoo-mail-vs-gmail-vs-windows-live.html

Associated Press (November 5, 2008). Google drops Yahoo advertising partnership. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27555004/

Blank, Christine (June 8, 2006). MSN Advertisers Report High ROI, Less Traffic. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://www.dmnews.com/MSN-Advertisers-Report-High-ROI-Less-Traffic/article/91483/

Buchanan, Mark (2002). Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks. Norton.

Duncan, T (2005). Principles of Advertising & IMC. McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Hardy, David (May 18, 2006). Yahoo! advertising set to take on MSN and Google AdWords. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://www.bigmouthmedia.com/live/articles/yahoo-ads-take-on-google.asp/2969/

Kirk, Jeremy (10/31/2008). Google introduces service-level guarantee for its Apps suite. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://www.thestandard.com/news/2008/10/31/google-introduces-service-level-guarantee-its-apps-suite

McLaughlin, Laurianne (2002). The Straight Story on Search Engines. PC World. Retrieved on November 19, 2008 from
http://www.pcworld.com/article/97431-5/the_straight_story_on_search_engines.html

Rosoff, M (October 23, 2006). The Future of MSN. Directions on Microsoft. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://www.directionsonmicrosoft.com/sample/DOMIS/update/2006/11nov/1106tfom.htm#top

Tancer, Bill (August 3, 2006). Google, Yahoo! and MSN: Brand Association. Hitwise Intelligence. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://weblogs.hitwise.com/bill-tancer/2006/08/google_yahoo_and_msn_brand_ass.html

Yahoo (2008). What is the combined market share of the Google, Yahoo! and MSN? Retrieved on November 15, 2008 from http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=1006032905387

Yahoo (2008b). Yahoo Six Month Staock Chart. Retrieved on November 23, 2008 from http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=YHOO&t=6m&l=on&z=m&q=l&c=

Sunday, December 21, 2008

MSN Brand Inventory

According to Keller (2008, p 129), an inventory is a “supply-side” view of the brand. He also notes that an inventory profiles competitors to understand points of parity and points of difference.

Products and Services Offered
From 1995 through 2005, MSN was the umbrella brand for all online services offered from Microsoft (see Rosoff, 2006, p 1). Beginning in 2006, the Windows LIVE brand was introduced and applied to certain online properties with a goal of reinvigorating them to compete more effectively through association with the Windows brand name. For example, MSN Hotmail became Windows LIVE Mail, MSN Messenger became Windows LIVE Messenger, and MSN Search became LIVE Search. However, Rosoff (p1) goes on to note that several of the MSN brand names are category traffic leaders so that Microsoft decided to also keep the MSN brand for many online services.

Tancer (2008, pp 1-2) works at Experian, and uses the Experian categories for segmenting online services. MSN has a point of parity in each Experian category, with the exception of Sports, Employment, and Personality. In terms of total share of Internet visits, MSN captures 2.4% compared with Google at 7.7% and Yahoo at 13.2%. Both MSN and Yahoo have portal services that Google does not. SiteSeeker (2008, p 1) characterizes search as the dominant service in the competition between the three giants. Rosoff and Tancer have a more balanced perspective that includes a complete set of online services that draws traffic to the site.

In its SEC 10-K filing (see SEC, June 30, 2008), Microsoft characterizes its Online Services Business as an online advertising platform. This platform offers personal communication services such as email and messaging, the MSN portal, LIVE Search, MSN Hotmail, MSN Mobile Services, MSN Premium Web Services, MapPoint and MSN Internet Access. Here is a list of MSN properties with sufficient traffic to rank in the top four sites by category.



Now I will review the MSN services that attract advertisers to the site. There is a parallel set of products and services to support marketing efforts to advertisers, the paying customers for the MSN brands. Sterling (2005, p 1) reports that the MSN AdCenter product is well liked by advertisers. It has advanced demographic and psychograhic mapping capabilities that allow them to better target communications. Marketing Vox (2006, p 1) commended MSN on the high quality of its AdCenter platform.

To help advertisers optimize their return on investment with MSN, Microsoft now offers a training program and a certification credential. The training program instructs advertiser staff on different strategies and tactics to use for different marketing communications to different publics. Zol reports (2007, p 1) that this is important and needed for point of parity in the category. Keller (p 110) notes that MSN’s service is not required to be equal to Google to establish a point of parity but rather just “good enough.”

Finally, Microsoft offers a community forum to assist advertisers with their Web marketing through commentary by Web analytics experts, software development experts who talk about the ability to customize AdCenter services through application programming interfaces, and a variety of other topics. A typical example is Brian Eisenberg discussing the Seven Biggest Mistakes of Web Analytics (see Ad Center).

Links to other aspects of the inventory follow:
MSN Competitive Environment Inventory

MSN Marketing Support Programs

MSN Brand Hierarchy

Evaluating MSN against Keller's Six Criteria


References
Chickowski, Erica (02/08/2008). Brand Identities After a Microsoft and Yahoo Deal. Baseline. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Messaging-and-Collaboration/Brand-Identities-After-a-Microsoft-Yahoo-Deal/1/

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Marketing Vox, (October 4, 2007). Ballmer Sees Ad Revenue as Microsoft's Future. Retrieved on November 19, 2008 from http://www.marketingvox.com/ballmer-sees-ad-revenue-as-microsofts-future-033446/

Rosoff, M (October 23, 2006). The Future of MSN. Directions on Microsoft. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://www.directionsonmicrosoft.com/sample/DOMIS/update/2006/11nov/1106tfom.htm#top

Site-Seeker (2007). Search Engines. Retrieved on November 15, 2008 from http://www.site-seeker.com/seocompetition.cfm

SEC (June 30, 2008). Microsoft Corporation Form 10-K. Retrieved on November 19, 2008 from http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/789019/000119312508162768/d10k.htm

Sterling, Greg (March 17, 2005). MSN AdCenter. Search Engine Journal Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://www.searchenginejournal.com/msn-adcenter-joins-yahoo-and-google-in-search-advertising/1438/

Tancer, Bill (August 3, 2006). Google, Yahoo! and MSN: Brand Association. Hitwise Intelligence. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://weblogs.hitwise.com/bill-tancer/2006/08/google_yahoo_and_msn_brand_ass.html

Zol, James (December 3, 2007). Google, Yahoo!, and MSN All Offer Accreditation Now. Semvironment. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from http://www.semvironment.com/google-yahoo-and-msn-all-offer-accreditation-now/

MSN Competitive Environment Inventory

Market Share
According to Tancer (2008, p 1), the market share for Internet visits are:



Tancer goes on to breakdown the total visits into the Experian Web site segments as follows.

Click image to expand.


Market Segments and MSN Points of Parity
Chickowski (2008, p 2) notes that Yahoo, Google and MSN all offer similar services, although Google has been far more effective in establishing points of difference in services that attract high page hits. A chart of favorable brand salience with each group is based on the studies of Rosoff (2006), Tancer (2006), and Chickakowski (2008).

Microsoft can use this chart to map its competitive brand strategy for MSN/LIVE. As we will see in the next section, MSN has strong presence in the Editor Collated Content arena. I propose this area can be exploited to establish rich communications with strategic buyers by placing noteworthy Editor’s in a Corporate Governance line extension of MSN/LIVE. In addition, MSN has a valid point of presence in each category.

Like Yahoo, MSN has the same set of tools and applications as those provided by Google, according to Chickakowski (2008, p 2). Keller (p 110) notes that MSN’s service is not required to be equal to Google to establish a point of parity but rather just “good enough.” Finally, the Tancer (2006, p 1) study found that while Yahoo was considered as a destination site and Google as a search site, MSN/LIVE was both.

Click image to expand.


MSN Points of Difference
According to Rosoff (2006, p 2), MSN makes content available that is collated by editors who work for either MSN or an MSN content partner. As noted in sections one and four, my proposal is to create customized and searchable corporate governance collections for customers who are strategic buyers. They will be attracted to Editor Collated Content that has been customized for them and that regards corporate governance. This will not only create a rich communication with these wealthy buyers on MSN/LIVE and thereby enhance the MSN operations, but will also enhance the communications between Microsoft and these corporate clients, which are increasingly lured by Open Source and “Software as a Service” alternatives to Windows.

Another point of difference would be that Microsoft has major resources world-wide that it can utilize to provide customer assistance to strategic buyers. It has a skillful sales force that is accustomed to fulfilling demanding assignments. It has a well-organized support structure to disseminate information and software updates as well as a competent consulting arm (MCS) with a field-tested project methodology that has a proven record of success. Finally, Microsoft has stable relations with the corporate world, which makes negotiating and executing contracts straightforward. This is known as social capital.

References
Chickowski, Erica (02/08/2008). Brand Identities After a Microsoft and Yahoo Deal. Baseline. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Messaging-and-Collaboration/Brand-Identities-After-a-Microsoft-Yahoo-Deal/1/

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Rosoff, M (October 23, 2006). The Future of MSN. Directions on Microsoft. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://www.directionsonmicrosoft.com/sample/DOMIS/update/2006/11nov/1106tfom.htm#top

Tancer, Bill (August 3, 2006). Google, Yahoo! and MSN: Brand Association. Hitwise Intelligence. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://weblogs.hitwise.com/bill-tancer/2006/08/google_yahoo_and_msn_brand_ass.html

Evaluating MSN against Keller’s Six Criteria

Keller (2008, p 140) uses six evaluation factors to study and define a brand image. The criteria are: 1.) Memorability; 2.) Meaningfulness; 3.) Likeability; 4.) Transferability; 5.) Adaptability; and 6.) Protectability.

Memorability
Keller (p 147) discusses brand name aspects that can increase memorability and awareness. Two important aspects are “simple to say” and “easy to spell.” That is the case with MSN and LIVE. A brand name should likewise be familiar and meaningful. MSN does have familiarity in that it is a contraction of MS Network or Microsoft Network. Windows LIVE also has associations with Microsoft. Both can thus draw on associations with Microsoft. Furthermore, Keller holds that the name should be distinctive. The word Network distinguishes MSN from Microsoft and the three-letter acronym nature of the brand name is an orthographic device to distinguish the name with linguistic characteristics (see Keller, 2008, p 152).

Meaningfulness and Likability
The MSN logo has rich meaning. The logo is a butterfly, which has meaning on several levels. Russell (2003, p 1) notes that it has long been a symbol of transformation. In the case of both Microsoft and its customers, the transition is to the new world founded by the Internet. Russell also holds that our fascination with the butterfly is because if it “mesmerizing beauty.”

For each market segment there are two types of MSN customer. The first is the site visitor who wants to use the services offered by MSN. The second are advertisers who want to communicate with the site visitors. MSN has a mantra for the advertisers: “Easy to sell, easy to buy.” Experienced advertising professionals at MSN make the mantra true in actual practice according to Cuneo (2003, p 1) in Advertising Age.

Transferability and Adaptability
Keller defines two aspects of transferability (pp 142-3). The first is the ability of a brand to transfer across categories. For example, how well do the Microsoft Network brand elements transfer to a news channel? Shepard (1997, pp 35-8) discusses the marriage of MSN and NBC into MSNBC one of the sub-brands in the MSN portfolio. She found Microsoft bringing Internet and technology credibility to the joint venture and NBC the news credentials and trust. This is still one of the most successful Internet news programs. The second aspect of transferability is to add brand equity across geographical boundaries. Again, Microsoft Network has done this. Koranteng (2004, p 1) observes “that Microsoft Network [has] presence in 40 countries.”

Keller defines Adaptability (p 143) as the brand elements capacity to address change over time in competitors, or in consumer tastes. Both have happened to Microsoft Network during its history. Its first competitor was AOL, America On-Line in the mid-1990s. As late as 2001, MSN had still not dispatched AOL as a portal competitor and the Seattle Times (2002, p 1) reports that Microsoft spent $300M in the launch of the Butterfly Logo as a campaign against a still powerful AOL. Since that time, AOL has faded as a portal site and now Microsoft faces two new powerful competitors in Google and Yahoo.

Their surprising success resulted in MSN losing its footing. However, it is now reorganizing and as Kafka (2008, p 1) reports is actually gaining market share on both Google and Yahoo in the early part of this year.

Protectibility
Keller categorizes two types of protection for brand elements: 1.) Legal; and 2.) Competitive. A logo such as the MSN Butterfly and the Microsoft Network brand name can be legally protected especially when unauthorized use is a bad faith attempt to mislead the public and misdirect trade and economic livelihood from a corporate body that has invested in that name for commercial purpose (see Wikipedia, 2008a, p 1). Trademarks and registered names also receive international recognition and protection.

References

Kafka, Peter (January 18, 2008). Nielsen: Google, Yahoo, Losing Search Share To MSN. (Not A Typo). Silicon Valley Insider. Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/01/nielsen-google-yahoo-losing-search-share-to-msn-not-a-typo.html

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Koranteng, Juliana (11/20/2004). MSN's Euro Moves. Billboard. Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Seattle Time (October 14, 2002). Microsoft Puts $300 Million into MSN Internet Service Butterfly Campaign. Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Shepard, Alica (March 1997). Webward Ho. American Journalism Review. Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Wikipedia (2008a). Trademarks. Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark

MSN Marketing Support Programs

Keller (p 131) observes that to achieve the ideal positioning of a brand and obtain congruence between what customers currently believe about the brand and what they will value in the brand, a strong supporting marketing program must be in place. Microsoft Network does have a strong marketing support program and it has evolved throughout its history. The products are listed above in section 2.1 and will be listed again in section 2.4 below on competitor analysis. The place is the Internet, now including mobile.

MSN has used a variety of promotional strategies over the past 14 years. Brandweek (2000, p 1) reported on a common marketing tactic for MSN, which is to sponsor events that can be reported and tracked on the Internet. Sponsorship is one aspect to MSN marketing support, and these events helped MSN prove the value of online tracking.

Carter (2005, p 1) describes how MSN incorporates TV and online advertising with events to promote the Microsoft Network brand. This work is coordinated by McCann-Erickson and is coordinated across countries. In the case of the launch of LIVE’s new search engine, the campaigns in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Brazil were all synchronized.

Haar reports (1998, p 1) that in its early years, Microsoft had an annual $100M marketing budget for MSN. MSN does not advertise solely to generate site traffic. They also market to advertisers and Microsoft believes that its technical skill will give it a competitive edge. Finally, the MSN advertising engine can be customized for each advertiser, and so personalization is another marketing support program tactic.


References
Brandweek (04/03/2000). Silver Awards. Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Carter, B (2/5/2005). MSN takes on Google with search engine launch. Marketing. Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Haar, S (1998). MSN Holds Back Marketing Bucks Until 1999. Interactive Week. Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

MSN Brand Hierarchy

Microsoft Network, MSN is a brand family that encompasses Microsoft’s network or online services. The Windows LIVE brand was introduced for certain online properties in 2006 and as a result some of the online services have two names, such as Hotmail and Windows LIVE Mail, MSN Search and LIVE Search, and MSN Maps and Local LIVE. For the MSN brand, modifiers are used to distinguish a particular service. Keller (2008, p 451) notes that modifiers distinguish “different types of items or models.” MSN Entertainment is an example of the modifier in use. The following chart is a visual representation of the brand hierarchy.

Click image to expand.

References
Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Incomplete Menorah: Instinct versus Enlightenment in Pandora’s Box

Louise Brooks is a sunbeam in the 1928 film Pandora’s Box. The film itself is a reflection of the decay of Weimar Germany and was directed by George Pabst. Pandora’s Box is based on a series of plays by Frank Wedekind concerning a character Lulu in a regressive struggle between the instinctive and the enlightened.

Lulu is a courtesan and would-be stage performer. Her relationships with the cultured Dr. Schon and his son Alwa form the basis for the two parts of the film. In the first, Dr. Schon destroys himself. In the second, the other characters ruin themselves. Two metaphorical associations early in Pandora’s Box make it clear that Lulu is a character driven by instinct, devoid of enlightenment.

Pabst uses a menorah in the set decor. It is prominently displayed in Lulu’s modern apartment and our attention focused on it several times. It eventually becomes apparent that it is missing the 9th, center branch. This is the branch for the candle that lights all the other candles. The implication is that Lulu is a character without enlightenment and one incapable of obtaining enlightenment like the Lilitu.

Pabst goes on, though, to reinforce this point. We also see in background during Lulu’s dance for Schigolch and in several closeups, a painting of Lulu as Pierrot, the trusting fool in mime and the comedy of artists. Pierrot is the object of other’s machinations, and is fully unaware of reality. Lulu is driven by instinct, and like Pierrot driven to calamity.

Pabst additionally asserts that enlightenment is fragile, in school with Adorno and Horkheimer. The old German culture, manifest in the main characters other than Lulu, rapidly disintegrates in the face of Dionysian instinct. High culture breaks down without a personal commitment to the processes of enactment, selection and retention.

Schon’s fiancĂ©, in contrast to Lulu, personifies this commitment. Yet, she is abruptly rejected in a series of rebuffs during Lulu’s theater revue, which is financed by Schon. The fiancĂ© is bewildered by Schon’s embrace of the instinctive Lulu, rudely brushed aside by the backstage manager, and her ostracization complete, she leaves the backstage world in two movements.

The die is cast at that point for the eventual ruin of the other characters, all of whom profited in their own way within the enlightened framework. A transition (a ship) over a season (3 months) takes place to a world governed by instinct. Pabst’s final act in this film postulates that this world is populated by sociopaths and those who administer to broken souls. Pandora’s Box in 1928 foreshadowed what would happen a decade after its release. During that intervening decade, three of the main actors in this film had to escape the new Germany for America because they were Jewish: Fritz Kortner, Franz Lederer, and Siegfried Arno.

This is a great film, carried by Amazon at Pandora's Box

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Successful Equity Building for an Online Brand

Uproar.Com is a gaming site that uses traditional gaming as a draw to increase site traffic for sponsored advertising. In addition to a large selection of free games, they also have sophisticated games for subscription, and they work with corporations to create advergaming marketing communications campaigns for those corporations. The site was created by a woman and is currently managed by her. The Web site is located at
In her Direct Marketing News article, Blank (2001, p 10), sites the demographics of Uproar.com, 80% female and skewed to the 18-35 year old audience. In addition, there are 31 million registered users of Uproar.com. As noted, Uproar.com helps other companies prepare advergaming sites and one example is Hershey. Hershey reported 1.3 million people who visited its game site on Uproar registered for its sweepstakes to win a trip to the Hershey Park, and 2.7 million did so to win a years supply of candy. This site has a lot of traction.

Keller (p 665) says a "simple but evocative name" like Uproar.com can be beneficial for online branding. He (p 663) goes on to remind us not to forget brand-building basics with online brands, starting with establishing points of parity and points of difference. An important point of difference for Uproar.com is that it is not a game site for adolescent males, the traditional audience for action games like Grand Theft Auto. The games on Uproar.com are thinking games. Fatah and Paul (2002, p 1) find that 41 percent of people who frequent online game sites in general are women, and 43 percent are ages 25 to 49. They also find that the average time a person spends on Uproar.com is one hour and 24 minutes.

Keller sites promotional programs as another important element in brand building ( pp 256-9). The Toronto Star (2000, p 2) reports that Uproar.com distinguished itself trhough its incentive based programs. “Players are rewarded for signing up and playing.” Awards vary for different games: some are cash, DVDs, MP3 players and even vacations to Maui.

Keller also notes (pp 229-235) that the integrated marketing element of advertising is a powerful means to building brand equity. Sampey (1999, p 1) reports that the Grey Entertainment agency did TV, radio and outdoor ads for Uproar. They came up with the slogan, “Let there be fun.” Keller (p 159) says that slogans “are powerful brand building devices….”

The result is that Uproar.com is a major entertainment site and has powerful companies both advertise on the site and seek out its advergaming expertise.

References
Blank, C (August 6, 2001). Hershey's Online Push for Reese's Gets Sweet Response. Direct Marketing News. Retrieved on December 5, 2008 at http://www.dmnews.com/Hershey39s-Online-Push-for-Reese39s-Gets-Sweet-Response/article/74093/

Fatah, H and P. Paul (May 2002). Gaming Gets Serious. American Demographics. Retrieved from EBSCOHOST on December 6, 2008.

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Sampey, Kathleen (October 11, 1999). Grey Airs First Uproar Work. Adweek. Retrieved on December 6, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Toronto Star (November 16, 2000). Gratis Gaming. Retrieved from EBSCOHOST on December 6, 2008.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Perceptual Map of MSN, Yahoo and Google

A Perceptual Map is a marketing tool to graphically compare consumer attitudes towards competitor companies. Most commonly, two salient characteristics of the market niche occupied by the companies are used to form a two dimensional map that shows how each company fares with the customers of that market segment.

Online services is becoming an important market segment for Microsoft. Marketing Vox (2007, p1) reports that Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, sees advertising revenue earned by Online Services as contributing 25% of Microsoft’s business in future. Such advertising revenues will help support the Microsoft Cloud Computing initiative code-named Azure (see Mackey, 2008, p 1) and Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings.

Already its competitors are starting cloud computing and SaaS services that Gartner believes will soon be “good enough” (see Smith and Austin, 2007, p 1). The top two competitors to Microsoft MSN in Online Services are Yahoo and Google. There are two dimensions I propose to use in assessing corporate customer perceptions of these three largest Internet sites. The first is the market perception of the corporate services that are offered by each vendor.

The other dimension is social capital. As I have argued in the Open Source Gamblers Ruin posting (see Gambler's Ruin), “strategic buyers” are an important customer segment for Microsoft generally and the most profitable customer in terms of sales revenues. These customers are corporate and governmental organizations that would have a major impact on Microsoft if they shift away from Microsoft to its Open Source or Web Portal competitors because they are big buyers. A move like that would reduce Microsoft revenue while significantly enhancing that of its competitors. In addition, by being big buyers, they also attract advertisers so that they have significant meaning for MSN operations. Therefore, the second dimension in this perceptual map is the social capital each competitor has with corporate customers.

Buchanan (2002, 201-204) gives a laymen’s explanation of social capital as the “ability of people to work together easily and efficiently based on trust, familiarity and understanding.” In lieu of a formal survey, I will use the sales, marketing and consulting employee counts of each organization as a proxy for social capital thay have with large corporate customers. This seems reasonable; the greater the investment in marketing communications between one of the vendors and the corporate world it serves, the greater the social capital.

To calculate the correlation strength of each vendor in the social capital dimension, I normalize employee counts to a percentage by summing all employee counts and dividing the total count into each company count. The employee counts are derived from the SEC 10-K filings for each company. Here is the raw data:



Here is the relative percentage of employees dedicated to marketing communications and services in the three organizations, reflecting social capital strenths:



For the other dimension in this map, the portal corporate functionality, I will use Tancer’s market ranking comparison of the three sites that is published at HitWise. However, not all attributes Experian tracks are related to corporate interests. For example, sports, dating, games, personalities and music would not be. The following are the Search Portal characteristics I will use in the perceptual map: Portal Pages, Email Service, Search Engine, News/Media, Business Information, and Maps.

For the corporate portal functionality dimension, I use a balanced scorecard approach based on those rankings in Tancer’s survey. The notion is that the current market share ranking of each Web site reflects the market’s perception of the company’s ability in each of these categories: Portal Pages, Email Service, Search Engine, News/Media, Business Information, and Maps.

Here is the score card calculation based on rankings in those categories:



Here is the relative strength of each ranking factor:



Combining the Portal Functionality numbers with the social capital, we then get the following sets of coordinates for our perceptual map:



Here is a perceptual map based on those coordinates:





I included a desired point in the map that would reflect the combined strengths of Yahoo and MSN, which is what I believe Microsoft was after in its merger attempts with Yahoo.

References

Buchanan, Mark (2002). Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks. Norton.

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Mackey, Kurt (October 27, 2008). Microsoft has head in the clouds with new Windows Azure OS. Retrieved on November 19, 2008 from http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20081027-microsoft-has-head-in-the-clouds-with-new-windows-azure-os.html

Marketing Vox, (October 4, 2007). Ballmer Sees Ad Revenue as Microsoft's Future. Retrieved on November 19, 2008 from http://www.marketingvox.com/ballmer-sees-ad-revenue-as-microsofts-future-033446/

Rosoff, M (October 23, 2006). The Future of MSN. Directions on Microsoft. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://www.directionsonmicrosoft.com/sample/DOMIS/update/2006/11nov/1106tfom.htm#top

SEC (12/31/2007). Yahoo Form 10-k. Retrieved on November 26, 2008 from http://apps.shareholder.com/sec/viewerContent.aspx?companyid=YHOO&docid=5760286

SEC (2/15/2008). Google Form 10-K. Retrieved on November 26, 2008 from http://www.secinfo.com/d14D5a.tvTt.htm

SEC (June 30, 2008). Microsoft Corporation Form 10-K. Retrieved on November 19, 2008 from http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/789019/000119312508162768/d10k.htm

Smith, D and Austin T (June 5, 2007). Microsoft and Google: Who's Going After Whom? Gartner Research, ID G00148622.

Taft, Darryl (October 10, 2007). Ballmer Talks Cloud, Advertising, SAAS. eWeek. Retrieved on November 19, 2008 from http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Enterprise-Apps/Ballmer-Talks-Cloud-Advertising-SAAS/

Tancer, Bill (August 3, 2006). Google, Yahoo! and MSN: Brand Association. Hitwise Intelligence. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from http://weblogs.hitwise.com/bill-tancer/2006/08/google_yahoo_and_msn_brand_ass.html

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Construal Theory and Cleaning Vinegar

The Heinz All-Natural Cleaning Vinegar may have been a product somewhat ahead of its time. Today’s mainstream world is more “green” aware than in the late 80s and early 90s. Haig (2003, p 34) says that the cleaning vinegar moved Heinz away from its core identity. Until then it had manufactured only food products.

He goes on, though, to propose that it was not marketed properly. Heinz pushed it to the mass market and Haig contends at that time it was a niche product. Heinz might have been successful if they had distributed it only through health store chains initially. Haig's rule for this is “Adopt a niche strategy for a niche product.”

In their study published by the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Kim and John (2003, p 1) found that the importance of perceived fit in a brand extension is moderated by “construal level.” Construal theory proposes that we interpret activities in the environment either as “abstract and generalized features (high-level construals) or in terms of concrete and contextualized features (low-level construals).”

Their studies indicate that perceived fit for a brand extension was important to people with a higher-level construal of a subject while to folks who think concretely about the subject it was not so important. This might explain what happened to Heinz. Most people abstracted them to the food product category. The greens back then may have been better audience to introduce the product. They were used to thinking outside the box and looking concretely at a product’s ingredients.

References
Haig, Matt (May 2003) Big Brand Ball-ups. Brand Strategy. Retrieved on November 27, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Kim, Hakkyun and John, Deborah Roedder (April 2008). Consumer response to brand extensions: Construal level as a moderator of the importance of perceived fit. Journal of Consumer Psychology. Retrieved on November 27, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Are Possessions an Extension of Self?

In his 1988 article, Belk addresses this question as a topic of interest to marketing research. He starts (1988, p 139) with a summary of the three states of self: 1.) Being; 2.) Doing; and 3.) Having. He goes on to do a detailed review of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (p 145), a work that fully explored the relationships between these three states. In Sartre’s existential view, doing is a transitional state leading to the two more stable states to have or to be. Sartre argues that the only reason we want to have something is to enlarge our sense of self and so having is an extension of being.

This existential viewpoint is consistent with John Locke (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism ) the philosophical father of the old United States (see http://www.johnlocke.org/about/legacy.html ). In both philosophical systems, private property is recognized as a fundamental state of mankind and in the western world purchases are given legal status as an extension of self. In this culture, there is the opportunity for purchases to be an extension of self.

This is not the case in all cultures. Belk goes on (p 146) to discuss the Marxist viewpoint, which stresses doing as the stable state and the having state as creating ‘corrupt fetishes’ in the self. Furthermore, the collective state of being rather than the individual is emphasized. In such a culture it is very unlikely that purchases could be a reflection of self.

Another possible permutation is that of Erich Fromm, who wrote The Sane Society, a popular analysis of American social decay. Unlike Marx, Fromm (see Belk, 1988, p 146) holds that being rather than doing is the “preeminent form of existence.” However, like Marxists he holds that having is a fountain of social ills. Again, in a culture like that Fromm recommends, possessions would probably not be an extension of self.

Even in John Locke’s world, which to some extent still exists today, private property may only have a utilitarian role. Not in the Dionysian ethos that pervades the modern west but in its Apollonian past according to the Canadian anthropologist Anthony Wallace (1963, pp 101-11). In such times, Neumeier (2006, p 38) tells us that product features were the focus of the advertising. I don't think this is because people were simple and dull but because that was the cultural milieu.

The dichotomy of Dionysian and Apollonian ethos was contrived by the Greeks and an inherent part of their drama and written arts. A dim view is given the motivations that drive a culture during periods of intemperance. William Blake captured the sense of overindulgence, especially in his third proverb (see http://www.los.org/art/Blake.html ).

In the growing prosperity of Victorian times, the economist Veblen postulated that property can be a decorative extension of self (see Belk, 1988, p 157). Belk also reviews analyses of grave goods as further support for this contention that property is an extension of self. The existence of grave goods may however wax and wane according to the presiding ethos or other cultural factors. Our modern American society is certainly a good prospect for viewing property as an extension of self, but we don’t bury goods with the dead.

As noted, I think that Belk’s argument is most persuasive in the context of the modern west. He suggests (p 140) that the more control one has over an object the more it becomes part of self. I disagree with this because we would not have spent the time and energy to master an object if it was not already in our concept of self. In either case, though, the object becomes a reflection of self because it has salience with us, imagery, feelings and resonance - the ladder of brand equity.

Keller (2008, p 72) observes that a strong personal attachment can be established between a brand and a person. Brand’s convey a sense of community, a self larger than the individual, similar to nationalism. The brand imagery like patriotism defines a larger self for those who own the brand. They have become part of such a community. Neumeier (2006, p 40) proposes that brands are advancing into the vacuum left by subsiding national boundaries to avoid homogenized globalism.

In sum, I think Belk’s contention has application today as our Dionysian ethos has gone global. On the other hand, the Marxist interpretation of self has not completely disappeared, with China, Russia, Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Vietnam still having such inclinations. What is more interesting is that yet another movement in the west may be growing, the caring conserver social movement identified by Lessinger (1991, pp 148-160). It reflects Fromm’s interpretation of self in society. Lessinger argued skillfully about the inevitability of this movement’s success and the economic demolition of the existing order it will ignite.

Depending on your choice of first cause, goods may not reflect an extension of self.


References
Belk, R (1988). Possesions and the Extended Self. Journal of Consumer Research. Retrieved on November 13, 2008 from WVU IMC Week 5 readings.

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Lessignger, Jack (1991). Penturbia. SocioEconomics Press.

Neumeier, M (2006). The Brand gap. New Riders.

Wallace, Anthony FC (1963). Culture and Personality. Random House.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Red Bull's Brand Equity

According to Keller (2008, p 53), brand equity is the strong, favorable and unique brand associations in the memory of customers. He goes on to identify (p 54) two sources of brand equity: 1.) Brand Awareness; and 2.) Brand Image. Red Bull has well defined tactics for both sources.

The Brand Awareness Source for Red Bull Brand Equity
Keller (p 54) notes the key elements of Brand Awareness: 1.) Recognition; and 2.) Recall. He postulates that if buy decisions are made at the point of purchase, then brand name, logo, packaging and the other elements of brand recognition are important factors. If the buy decision is made before arriving at the point of purchase, then brand recall is centrally important. Duncan (2005, p 140) concludes that low-involvement purchase is usually done for products that are relatively cheap, bought frequently, and are low risk. In such cases, in addition to traditional advertising with its reach and frequency drills, it would be productive to spend time getting the name, logo and packaging correct.

Red Bull did just this. The Pearson Case Study 4 (2006, p 70) describes how Red Bull selected a distinctive, slim can. They also created a prominent and eye-catching logo of two bulls and a yellow sun. Package wording effectively communicates the products benefits: Energy Drink. The packaging is an important part of the branding, as we might expect for a low-involvement product. Pearson Case Study 4 goes on (p 70) to note that changing the carefully selected package elements, in Germany substituting a glass bottle for the slim can, resulted in a dramatic drop off in sales.

To increase brand recall, Keller (p 55) advises that a slogan or a jingle can establish the memory linkages that improve recall. Pearson Case Study 4 (p 69) relates that Red Bull developed an effective slogan, “Red Bull gives you wiiings.” They use little advertising but when they do it consistes of unusual animated shorts that end with the slogan, “Red Bull gives you wiiings.”

The Brand Image Source for Red Bull Brand Equity
Keller (p 56) gives the necessary strategy for building a brand image: “link strong, favorable and unique associations to the brand in memory.” There are two factors to strengthen brand association: 1.) Personal relevance; and 2.) Consistence in its presentation over time.

Keller (p 57) goes on to say that direct experiences create the strongest brand benefit associations. This fits into Red Bulls strategy according to Pearson Case Study 4 (p 73). Their entry strategy is to seed happening places such as shops, clubs, bars and stores. They thus focus initially on opinion leaders who obtain positive direct experience with the brand. Once word of mouth has created a buzz about the product, they then widen distribution to areas surrounding the “in” spots. Keller (p 57) postulates that word of mouth advertising is particularly effective at building positive brand image in the product categories of restaurants and entertainment. It is not a stretch to see that this happened with Red Bull as well.

Keller (p 58) discusses how desirability and deliverability are critical factors in creating a favorable brand image. For Red Bull, Pearson Case Study 4 (P 70) gives the energy boosting and detoxifying benefits for the product. Red Bull improves endurance, increases mental alertness, improves reaction time, and eliminates waste substances. These are favorable for athletes, business people, and clubbers. In addition to favorability, Keller (p 58) says another factor to stimulate desirability is believability. Direct experience and word of mouth from opinion leaders is very believable.

Deliverability – does the product deliver what it promised? Pearson Case Study 4 (p 69) gives the pharmacology of Red Bull. It consists of caffeine as a stimulant, and two amino acids: taurine and glucuronolactone. These are both energy enhancing and detoxifying. This is confirmed by pharmaceutical studies. The formula for the drink has been patented by a Thai Pharmaceutical company.

Uniqueness is the third major factor for building brand image. According to Pearson Case Study 4 (pp 71-2), Red Bull created a new food category, Functional Food that enabled it to have the unique ability to make any performance claims about a food. The study notes (p 81) that this act enabled Red Bull to “establish the brand’s prominence on its own terms.” This gave it a unique message to communicate to its users, and a significant barrier to entry for competitors. It now enables Red Bull to establish in consumers the belief that its characteristics are prototypical for all members of this category, because today there are competitors. Keller (p 59) notes that this is positive for brand image.

For a more complete analysis of Red Bull integrated marketing communications, see Redmond Review

References
Duncan, T (2005). Principles of Advertising & IMC. McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Neumeier, M (2006). The Brand Gap. New Riders.

Pearson Case Study 4 (2006). Red Bull: Building Brand Equity in New Ways!. Pearson/ Prentice-Hall.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Greta Garbo, an Enduring Image

Greta Garbo still sells, some 80 years on. By my calculations, her movies earn approximately $200,000 annually on Amazon, Borders and Barnes&Noble. What is more, her items have a high response rate showing resonance with the audience (see Signature Series ) In EBSCOHOST, there are 12,152 articles about her or that reference her, with 4,816 written in the past five years. The mystique is as much about her lifestyle as her films.



Greta Garbo had the resolute spirit that Ayn Rand, who admired Garbo, tried to capture in the fictional character John Galt. Unlike Galt, however, who ran away to work apart from the system, Garbo turned the system inside out and made it work for her. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that the other major stars of the era were overwhelmed by the system.

Three of the biggest were Clara Bow (the It girl), Rudolf Valentino and John Gilbert. Rhodes (1999, p 197) notes that both Valentino and Bow, stars of first rank, had no control whatsoever over their movies or the public presentation of their image. Garbo, on the other hand, ended up with complete control over all production – choice of director, writers, script, co-stars, schedule, all aspects of production, including release of image building communications (see for example, Vieira, 2005, pp 164,167, 173).

Hollywood was having difficulty establishing a continuing female role type that was attractive to women of that day. The virgins like Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish, the vamps like Gloria Swanson and the flappers like Clara Bow were losing traction at the box office (Paris,1994, p 112). Garbo did not play into stale role types but instead became the embodiment, as she is now characterized by feminists, of the “new woman” (See Fischer, 2001, p 90).

I have seen most of her movies and there is a triangle, a brand formula or theme in them all – she is married to an older, overbearing man and having an affair with a younger man (see for example Vieira,2005, p 8). When discovered in the act, she is neither embarrassed nor repentant but instead is contemptuous, weary or angry with her older husband. Conveniently for her character and to the relief of the audience, he is killed or dies off, leaving her to her virile suitor.

After her first films proved extremely popular and profitable, she challenged the MGM power structure. She ignored studio dictates, refused to participate in staged publicity and premiers, did not wear traditional foundational garments beneath her clothes, and was in general insubordinate, all of which created a growing tension. It reached the tipping point when she demanded seven times her salary to become the highest paid actress in the business and refused to do the film Women Love Diamonds because she thought it foolish (see Paris, 1994, pp127-8).

MGM finally detonated, finding her in breach of contract, and issued her a cease and desist letter. She went over their heads to Loews Inc., the parent company, and focused on the factual errors in the letter (see Vieira, 2005, pp 45-8). It was also observed that had MGM listened to her they would not have lost $30,000 with Women Love Diamonds (MGM went on with it using a different actress). Loews agreed, and MGM was forced to capitulate to the 21 year old girl. The humiliation of the best brains in a place like MGM rocked Hollywood (see Paris, 1994, pp 129-30). She was given the salary and creative license and for the next decade produced a series of extremely profitable films.

Eleanor Boardman who suffered the one-sided nature of Garbo's friendship, summed up the enduring interest: "You gave, Garbo took, she never said thanks, but she was fascinating."

References

Corbis (2008). Mysterious Woman Photo displayed under arrangement with http://www.corbis.com/ the copyright holder.

Fischer, Lucy (2001) . Greta Garbo and Silent Cinema: The Actress As Art Deco Icon. Camera Obscura 48, Volume 16, Number 3.

Fischer, Lucy, et al (2002). The Feminist Reader in Early Cinema. Duke University Press.

Gaines, Jane (1989). The Queen Christina Tie-Ups: Convergence of Show Window and Screen. Quar. Rev. of Film & Video. Retrieved on October 22, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Noir Dame (2008). Down to the Sea in Ships (1922) - Clara Bow, Marguerite Courtot. Retrieved on October 27, 2008 from http://www.noirdame.com/index.php?crn=206&rn=609&action=show_detail

Paris, Barry (1994). Garbo. University of Minnesota Press.

Rhodes, Chip (1999). The Star System and Modernist Identity Formation in the Silent Film Era. Strategies, Vol 12, Number 2. Retrieved from EBSCOHOST on October 27, 2008.

Vieira, Mark (2005). Greta Garbo: A Cinematic Legacy. Henry A. Abrams, Inc.

Greta Garbo Image Elements

This is the second of three postings on Greta Garbo Image Elements.
Name
Keller gives naming guidelines (p 147) that include being easy to spell and pronounce, being familiar, different and distinctive. Greta Garbo as a name is all of these as well as an alliteration, has consonance, is a slant rhyme and is composed of the plosives b,g,t, which according to Keller (p 152) makes names more easily recognized. Finally, I contend that her name taps into “existing knowledge systems.” Keller believes (p 149) this makes them easier to recognize and remember.

The word Garbo is what I call a compositional homonym. Greta Gustafson (her birth name) and Mimi Pollak (her college friend) derived the name Garbo based on first and last name elements they researched. I have no reference that they intentionally based it on Clara Bow, but the word Garbo would tap into knowledge already existing for Clara Bow. In Sweden, Clara would be pronounced KLAR-a. Garbo would be distinct from Clara Bow but is close enough phonetically to have a familiar ring to a world that already knew Clara Bow. Clara Bow was a talented and rising star in the film world in the early to mid-20s.

Style
Keller (p 143) lists four aspects of style. For Garbo, the complexity aspect of her style is minimal rather than ornamental. Her representation is realistic not abstract. Her acting is subtle, and understated when everyone else of that era used exaggeration in movement and gesture. She acted from inside out (see Paris, 1994, p 33), realistic but not the stark social realism that is as equally contrived as the vaudeville drama of the American studios and more pretentious. Her perceived movement was still, while her potency, to juxtapose Keller, was soft and strong.

Theme
Her theme was an application of her style to a formula and look. Her formula was the new woman in an love triangle. This woman was ahead of the other two in the triangle and ultimately drove its resolution. Greta Garbo refused helpless or dizzy female roles. Anymore, the interest in her today is the independence and acumen of her female characters. The theme has proved adaptable over time.

An additional thematic element is her look: languorous eyes, outdoorsy physique, graceful and athletic movement, and the Rembrandt lighting. Her wardrobe on set was done by top designers of her choice and created expressly for the film and the times, elegant in the 20s and plainer in the depression of the 30s. The Rembrandt lighting technique (see Guardian) was distinctive from the North-Lite approach used for her competition (see Cinematographers )

Slogans
A set of slogans, such as The Swedish Sphinx underscored her need for privacy, her avoidance of Hollywood parties, premiers and other events, and her mysterious power of attraction. According to Keller (pp 159-60), slogans reinforce brand positioning through descriptive or persuasive information about the star, and the desired points of difference. Unlike most of Hollywood, she was not a party animal who burned brightly then burned out.

References
Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.
Paris, Barry (1994). Garbo. University of Minnesota Press.

Analyzing Greta Garbo by Six Image Criteria

Keller uses six evaluation factors to study and define a brand image.

Memorability
The name Greta Garbo is easy to remember being easy to spell, pronounce, and having the linguistic characteristics of alliteration, consonance, slant rhyme and plosives to help with recognition and recall. Her style and theme is unforgettable, anyone who has seen her look in photographs or film finds out who she is and remembers. Louie B. Mayer did, writers did, leading actors did, critics and so did the general public (see Vieira or Paris throughout).

The slogan The Swedish Sphinx balances the plosives in her Name with sibilants. Sibilants start with s or soft c and are associated with the romantic, which is also the nature of her films. Again the slogan uses linguistic devices such as alliteration to aid recall. The fashion is classic so always contemporary, familiar and easy to remember.

Meaningfulness
The name Greta Garbo gave her initial meaning because it was familiar and discreetly associated with the existing knowledge system on Hollywood films. Clara Bow up through the mid-20s was a rising and charismatic star (see Noir Dame, 2008, p1 or Rhodes, 1994, p 191). Furthermore, Garbo’s theme advanced that meaningful start with a formula that is a primal, fundamental human relationship that can be applied to many situations. In her style, she was not the stereotypical female of the time, but rather now considered to be the first new woman. She expressed the spirit of freedom that pervaded the 20s. In retrospect, she was in the genesis of recognizing that freedom for women in the United States.

Likability
Keller (p 142) explains this as consumers finding the image aesthetically appealing, “Is it likable visually, verbally and in other ways.” Persuasive brand image elements reduce the burden on other marketing communications. In the film industry, the benefits of watching a particular film are less concrete than most other business transactions. Keller tells us (p 142) that in such cases “[all] the more important is the creative potential of the brand name and other brand elements to capture the intangible characteristics of the brand.”

Her look was attractively appealing so that movie goers would see her films three times instead of once (see Paris, 1994, p 119). Her Name and Slogan had drawing power from an association with pleasing films, and with a sense of mystery and romance. Her theme was a captivating expression of the balancing act between the traditional and the modern in those times.

Transferability
Transferability is the ability of the image elements to support line and category extensions (see Keller, 2008, p 142). For Garbo, line extensions would be new films, her brand image elements applied to different roles. Rhodes (1999, p 191) notes that by the 1920's many had realized that the stars rather than the stories were selling the movies. He says that "This change often took the form of storylines that thematized the relationship between the new stars to the publics upon whom they depended for their success." Garbo, more than anyone before or since, established a lasting brand.

The drawing power of her brand elements in terms of Keller’s progressive criteria (2008, p 140) have been detailed in the sections on Memorability, Meaningfulness, and Likability. They apply as well to one film or role as to another because they are related to the actress, and as Keller notes (p 142) the less specific the element to a line item or a category item the more transferable it is.

Adaptation
Keller defines adaptability (p 143) as the ability of brand elements to change over time as consumer opinions and beliefs change or just to remain contemporary. This happened to Garbo as silent film gave way to talkies and the roaring twenties gave way to the great depression. The brand name Greta Garbo did not change but with the introduction of Anna Christie, her first talkie, a slogan for the movie was able to play off the old slogan. “Garbo Talks” was a humorous extension to the “Swedish Sphinx” and its alluring silence.

Her unassuming and minimalist style was changed slightly as well as its application to a theme, adapted for the changing communication medium and economic milieu. In Ninotchka and Grand Hotel, her performance became more ornamental in complexity, less minimal. One of them was a comedy. Additionally, more of her films reflected the gritty existence of the times and made less use of elegant fashion and more of plain clothing. There was also adaptation to historical dramas such as Queen Christina. The formula was also adapted so that governments in several instances replaced the older man in her iron triangle. The Swedish crown in Queen Christina and the Soviet government in Ninotchka are examples.

The 30s Greta Garbo was substantially the 20s Greta Garbo but with some adaptation of the brand elements, which proved to be very successful at that.

Protectability
Keller categorizes two types of protection for brand elements: 1.) Legal; and 2.) Competitive. A personal name such as Greta Garbo can be trademarked especially when its unauthorized use is a bad faith attempt to mislead the public and misdirect trade and economic livelihood from a corporate body that has invested in that name for commercial purpose (see Trademarked and MirrorOfJustice).

Furthermore, all the brand elements have always, even today, proved competitively protectable. Her style and art have proven impossible to define precisely enough for anyone else to repeat her effect on screen. The iron triangle formula can be copied but her theme based on it cannot because that theme is the application of her style into the formula. The slogans applied to her would be empty today if applied to someone else, a cheap rip-off.

References
Gaines, Jane (1989). The Queen Christina Tie-Ups: Convergence of Show Window and Screen. Quar. Rev. of Film & Video. Retrieved on October 22, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Noir Dame (2008). Down to the Sea in Ships (1922) - Clara Bow, Marguerite Courtot. Retrieved on October 27, 2008 from http://www.noirdame.com/index.php?crn=206&rn=609&action=show_detail

Rhodes, Chip (1999). The Star System and Modernist Identity Formation in the Silent Film Era. Strategies, Vol 12, Number 2. Retrieved from EBSCOHOST on October 27, 2008.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Baby Michelangelo Direct Marketing Plan

The Baby Einstein series of DVDs are award winning baby development media produced originally by a company with the same name, started by Julie Clarke in 1997. According to Hughes (2005, p 35, see also Words ). the awards were from the Parenting magazine and also from the American Baby magazine. He also relates that (p 37), originally the only available medium was videocassette. After the Disney purchase in 2001, the media offerings were substantially extended to include not only videos but also CDs, DVDs, flash cards, software, books and educational toys. Jennifer Garner is a spokeswoman for the line.

These products are termed “infant development material” by Disney. Disney Baby Einstein products are appropriate for youth aged 0 to 3 years. Little Einstein, a separate product line, targets 3 years to Kindergarten. The Baby Einstein product line has an aim, as discussed on their Web site to “expose little ones to the world around them in playful and enriching ways. An opportunity for discovery” (see BabyEinstein).

According to Disney (see Staggs, 2007, p 9, and Disney Corporate), the parents who purchase Baby Einstein products come from wide ranging demographics. Hughes notes (p 35) that babies are the end user of the product. Wartella and Robb (2007, p 36) find that very young children, those under 3 are subjected to “massive amount of screen media.” This includes TV, videos, DVDs, computers, or videogames. The average exposure per day for children aged one and younger is 49 minutes while it is 1 hour 51minutes for children aged 1 to 3.

As an instructional exercise, a Direct Marketing Strategic Plan has been prepared for an ersatz new extension in the series, Baby Michelangelo. Spiller and Baier describe direct marketing strategic plans. The essential elements (2005, p 87) are:

1. Product
2. Offer
3. Medium
4. Distribution Method
5. Creative

I propose three offers in my direct marketing section of the Baby Michelangelo campaign. The first is a direct mail offer I call the Exclusive Offer. The second is the Web offer, a search engine marketing approach. The third is a direct response advertisement. The complete plan is at Baby Michelangelo Direct Marketing

References
Hughes, P (March 2005). Baby, It's You: International capital discovers the under threes. Comtemporary issues in early childhood. Retrieved on September 8, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Spiller, L. and M. Baier (2005). Contemporary Direct Marketing. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Staggs, T (February 8, 2007). Disney Consumer Products Presentation. Retrieved on September 8, 2008 at http://corporate.disney.go.com/media/investors/2007_irc_dcp.pdf

Wartella, E and M Robb (2007). Young Children, New Media. Journal of Children and Media. Retrieved on September 8, 2008 from EBSCOHOST.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Microsoft Brand Paradox

Its reputation apparently in retreat, Microsoft still has banner year after banner year, and is among the world’s most valuable brands. I believe this is a case that Keller (2008, p 72) describes in which a company gets behavior loyalty even though they don't have an engaging resonance with its consumers. Haigh and Knowles (2004, p 24) additionally note that other intangibles are included in various definitions of a brand. These other intangibles include: 1.) Patents, and software; 2.) Business process and supply chain configurations; and 3.) Contracts, distribution rights, and licenses.

Microsoft has fundamental patents on computer technology that is uses as a barrier to entry. Parloff (2007, p 1) reports that Microsoft is using this intellectual property to outmaneuver Open Source competitors. Microsoft also has an effective business process. A common gag in the high-tech industry is that there are two types of sales reps, those who make their quota and new ones. This may be true for IBM, Oracle and Sun but not Microsoft, who keeps on sales reps even if struggling and works with them. The sales teams eventually gain in-depth knowledge of their customer accounts. Neumeier (2006, p 18) talks about bridging the brand gap, and this requires “crystal clear and potent communications,” the kind Microsoft gets from reps with long experience on an account.

Microsoft has a long-standing relationship with the computer market in general. Keller goes on (p 84) to discuss customer relationship equity that creates a “tendency to stick with a product, above and beyond objective and subjective assessments of the brand.”He postulates (p 86) that increasing customer equity (like relationship equity) results in increased brand value.

My own experience is that this is particularly true in high-tech. There is great risk and high cost in migrating from one technology platform to another. The natural tendency is to retain the existing relationship, unless the brand in question poses more risk than a change. Keller (p 9) notes that brand loyalty provides a “predictability and security of demand” and is a barrier of entry to competitors.

A strong brand can also become a virtuous circle: a strong brand results in better market performance, better market performance increases brand awareness and image, which in turn increase brand strength. Keller says (p 12) that a strong brand is valuable reassurance to business customers. These are large buyers and I know Microsoft has sales teams dedicated to these large accounts, and top execs are also.

One very important value delivery strategy in high-tech is Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Keller (p 14) observes that a value delivery strategy is an essential element for selling to business customers. Microsoft is aware of this science of branding 1-1, and has imbued in corporate customers the belief that its brand has the lowest TCO. For example, Window’s ease of use gives it a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) in four of five usage patterns tested (see Gaudin, 2002, p1; Microsoft TCO, 2008, p1; Microsoft Speedy Hire, 2007, p1; and Microsoft Key Stone, 2007, p1).

Keller also asserts (p 16) that high-tech customers are “committing to a long-term relationship.” Microsoft has structured a brand that has lasted over time. It provides presales technical support, product support services after sales, consulting services, and a strong commitment to research and development so an investment in Microsoft will retain its value over time.

Microsoft continuously improves its software through investments to improve fundamentals such as reliability, security, manageability, and performance. This investment in tomorrow by Microsoft helps safeguard learning Microsoft technology. Woodie (2006, p1) cites an IDC study that in commitment to long term viability, Microsoft just edged out IBM for top spot.

These are seasons Microsoft has a strong brand but not an equally strong reputation.

References
Gaudin, Sharon (December 6, 2002). Microsoft-Backed Study Slams Linux TCO. Datamation.

Haigh, D. and J. Knowles (June 2004). What’s in a brand? Marketing Management.

Keller, K (2008). Strategic Brand Management. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Microsoft Key Stone (2007). Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/compare/ReportsDetails.mspx?recid=2

Microsoft Speedy Hire (2007). Speedy Hire Case Study. Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/compare/CaseStudyDetails.mspx?recid=155

Microsoft TCO (2008). Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/compare/linux/windows-server-tco.mspx

Neumeier, M (2006). The Brand Gap. New Riders.

Parloff, Roger (May 14 2007). Microsoft takes on the free world. Fortune Magazine. Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/05/28/100033867/

Woodie, Alex (January 10, 2006). Microsoft's Partner Channel the Strongest for Software, IDC Says.Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://www.itjungle.com/two/two011106-story01.html

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Brand Palimpsests

I am loyal to Coca Cola in the soft drink product category. Coke communicates vitality and always has an appeal to modernity. As Neumeier and Keller postulate, successful products are experiential and Coke is that but further, it’s a part of my life. With its campaigns throughout history, The Pause that Refreshes, The Real Thing, and Max Headroom, Coke positions itself as something that fits into my lifestyle. It’s a cultural touchstone.

To me Coke communicates style and energy while Pepsi, in contrast, seems base and impoverished. This is not a result of what Pepsi is doing today, because I find them to be adequately following Coke’s initiatives. For example, Coke is leading the beverage industry in environmentally friendly containers (see Business Wire). Everyone else, including Pepsi is now following suit. No, my perception of Pepsi has to do with its history. Past communications were low cost in comparison to Coke, no art and clumsy.


The Pepsi Generation. Yipes! They improved over time but my consciousness of them is a palimpsest and the earlier writing they did on my psyche won’t ever go away completely.
They have never had anything like the Hilltop commercial: Hilltop Ad. This is how I still view Coca Cola.

On the other hand, in the computer hardware category, I am completely agnostic. I do not differentiate between Dell, HP, Compaq, eMachines, Sony, or any of them. Microsoft Windows has commoditized computer hardware. Price is the overriding determinant in my purchase decision. I am not loyal because I am really buying Windows, which sits between the computer and myself. Microsoft is the middleman controlling my access to what I want.

I have a growing interest in Apple, and now have two Macs. Apple is a completely different product and does not try to compete on hardware features but has given me a different middleman, a Linux based operating system - OS X, to the Microsoft applications I like, especially Office. Perhaps the others could try the same thing, although if they do they may commoditize operating systems, and drag Apple and even Microsoft into the same bad place they now occupy as undifferentiated products in a losing race to the lowest price.


References

Keller, Kevin (2008). Strategic Brand Management 3rd Ed. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Neumeier, Marty (2006). The Brand Gap. New Riders.