Sunday, December 21, 2008

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

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