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

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