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

Arrigngton, Michael (February 8, 2007). Tech Crunch. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from

Chickowski, Erica (02/08/2008). Brand Identities After a Microsoft and Yahoo Deal. Baseline. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from

IQ69 (August 14, 2008). Yahoo tops Google in customer satisfaction survey. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from

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

Tancer, Bill (August 3, 2006). Google, Yahoo! and MSN: Brand Association. Hitwise Intelligence. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from

Wall, Aaron (June 13, 2006). How Search Engines Work: Search Engine Relevancy Reviewed. Search Engine Optimization. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from

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.

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 to begin a search using Microsoft search technology, or to .

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.

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.

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.

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.

Agarwal, Amit (May 03, 2006). Bloomberg spoils the MSN Advertising party in Redmond. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from

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

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

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.

Agarwal, Amit (May 03, 2006). Bloomberg spoils the MSN Advertising party in Redmond. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from

Agarwal, Amit (February 05, 2007). Yahoo! Mail vs GMail vs Windows Live Mail. Retrieved on December 3, 2008 from

Associated Press (November 5, 2008). Google drops Yahoo advertising partnership. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from

Blank, Christine (June 8, 2006). MSN Advertisers Report High ROI, Less Traffic. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from

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

Kirk, Jeremy (10/31/2008). Google introduces service-level guarantee for its Apps suite. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from

McLaughlin, Laurianne (2002). The Straight Story on Search Engines. PC World. Retrieved on November 19, 2008 from

Rosoff, M (October 23, 2006). The Future of MSN. Directions on Microsoft. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from

Tancer, Bill (August 3, 2006). Google, Yahoo! and MSN: Brand Association. Hitwise Intelligence. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from

Yahoo (2008). What is the combined market share of the Google, Yahoo! and MSN? Retrieved on November 15, 2008 from

Yahoo (2008b). Yahoo Six Month Staock Chart. Retrieved on November 23, 2008 from

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

Chickowski, Erica (02/08/2008). Brand Identities After a Microsoft and Yahoo Deal. Baseline. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from

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

Rosoff, M (October 23, 2006). The Future of MSN. Directions on Microsoft. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from

Site-Seeker (2007). Search Engines. Retrieved on November 15, 2008 from

SEC (June 30, 2008). Microsoft Corporation Form 10-K. Retrieved on November 19, 2008 from

Sterling, Greg (March 17, 2005). MSN AdCenter. Search Engine Journal Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from

Tancer, Bill (August 3, 2006). Google, Yahoo! and MSN: Brand Association. Hitwise Intelligence. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from

Zol, James (December 3, 2007). Google, Yahoo!, and MSN All Offer Accreditation Now. Semvironment. Retrieved on December 2, 2008 from

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.

Chickowski, Erica (02/08/2008). Brand Identities After a Microsoft and Yahoo Deal. Baseline. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from

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

Tancer, Bill (August 3, 2006). Google, Yahoo! and MSN: Brand Association. Hitwise Intelligence. Retrieved on November 22, 2008 from

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.

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.

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.


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

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

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.

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.

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, 80% female and skewed to the 18-35 year old audience. In addition, there are 31 million registered users of As noted, 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 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 is that it is not a game site for adolescent males, the traditional audience for action games like Grand Theft Auto. The games on 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 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 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 is a major entertainment site and has powerful companies both advertise on the site and seek out its advergaming expertise.

Blank, C (August 6, 2001). Hershey's Online Push for Reese's Gets Sweet Response. Direct Marketing News. Retrieved on December 5, 2008 at

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.