MICROSOFT BRANDS SUBTITLE: 2 BRANDS OR NOT 2 BRANDS

INTRODUCTION

Branding is big business and it’s important to do it well. It can be almost Make or Break for a company. How can you create a strong brand? As it happens, it would seem that Microsoft may not be doing too well on this question in the early part of 2006.

The right choice of brand can be a powerful element in driving sales growth. Sometimes one can learn a great deal from the way a big company handles a particular aspect of marketing. This is not always true when it comes to branding. One ‘problem’ many big companies have is that they have too much cash. Smaller, leaner companies must use guerilla marketing techniques to make the maximum impact with the minimum of cash. To be successful, they must be very creative and effective in the way they create their brand. A big company may have many decision-makers and the final brand choice may be a committee decision. At some point, the die is cast and they then try to make the brand work the best way it can. Microsoft is currently defending why it should continue to have $ 35 billion US on hand, which it maintains is for “new technology and other things important to the company’s operations”. So if required they can certainly invest money in making their new brands well known.

This newsletter reviews what Microsoft has done and suggests some lessons that can be drawn from their activity. Branding is an important concept for all sizes of companies, including even one-person enterprises. In this newsletter, we will explore in some detail what exactly a brand is and what it can do for your company. Continue reading

RIDING THE INTERNET TIDAL WAVE

INTRODUCTION

On January 5th 2005, an article appeared on this website entitled 2020 Hindsight on Y2K. This described the transition that had occurred over the previous decade from 1995 to 2005. The world had moved from the Before-Internet era to the After-Internet era. In this 10-year transition, there had been significant changes in technologies and in societies as a result of the Internet.

Only 10 days prior to that on December 26, 2004, a massive tsunami wreaked havoc on many parts of South-eastern Asia. Many lives in many countries were completely disrupted. It was devastating for those affected. In the eleven months since then it has become clear that the rapid evolution of the Internet will affect in a major way the lives and livelihoods of many more people than were affected by the great tsunami. This is not a new concept. Vint Cerf who joined Google in September of this year as Chief Internet Evangelist has described it as The 21st Century Internet Tidal Wave. Continue reading

Who’s Naughty, Who’s Nice… Google Christmas 2003

Introduction

This is not a Christmas fable. Nor is it like the review done by Google almost 12 months ago entitled, “2002 Year-End Google Zeitgeist – Search patterns, trends, and surprises“. Indeed given what has happened over the past 4 weeks, it will be interesting to see whether Google repeats the year-end review exercise this year. If it does, undoubtedly the title will change.

Many will guess instantly what this Newsletter is about. Many of us have been aware of one of the biggest upheavals since Google began in 1995. A good number of people, who were doing very well on sales coming from Google, have seen their businesses seriously damaged. Continue reading

ONLINE STORES AND SEO (SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION)

INTRODUCTION

Many online storeowners will come running when they see the title of this article. Their online store does not perform well in many cases and you cannot find their website in search engine keyword searches. These online storeowners often assume there is a cause and effect relationship here. In some cases, it may be partially true, but they shouldn’t jump to that conclusion too quickly.

Often it’s a question of expectations. There are many stories of people who have become multi-millionaires by selling on the Internet. With so many potential purchasers surfing on the Internet, surely sales of appealing products should be assured. Unfortunately this not the case for many online storeowners. In the first part of this article, we will explore some features of online stores and give some solutions that will give better search engine visibility.

However really great sales gains will not necessarily come about merely by applying these solutions. There is a more fundamental weakness of many online stores. This will be explored in the latter part of this article. Continue reading

Psst: Heard The One About The New Internet Search Directory

No, it’s not a joke. It’s an exciting news item you may have missed in yesterday’s Montreal Gazette. Montreal is of course one of the giants in the Information Technology world. There have been many exciting major software developments done here. My favourite is the Copernic Desktop Search software, which beats the pants off the other contenders such as Google and Microsoft. I believe we may be seeing something similar in the Internet Search Directory field.

A few words of explanation may be in order. Internet Search Directories attempt to list all the worthwhile websites on the Internet. Since their number is measured in the billions, this is no easy task. Directories got a great deal of momentum when Google decided to count back links to a web page as a measure of the importance of that web page. A back link is another web page, which has a link to the web page of interest. As Google grew so did the interest in Internet Directories. Here was a place where web pages could get listed and create back links.

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Forget Having A Website – Go For A Blog Instead

The over-crowded Internet is a tough place for mid-sized and small companies to stand out. Google is indexing over 8 billion web pages now. That’s an awful lot of web pages competing for attention.

The Wall Street Journal in its StartupJournal.com has some good advice. It points out that Small Firms Find Blogs Useful for Recognition. Indeed if Blogs had come along before websites, then you would certainly have gone for a Blog. The software is easy to use. The format of Blogs is perfect for the search engines. They have lots of content and links to blog entries seem to grow like magic. Once you have a blog, you’ll wonder whether you still need that website.

What Do You Call An 800 Lb. Gorilla?

gorilla

Well of course, you call an 800 lb. gorilla whatever it wants to be called. That came to mind in thinking about companies and how they choose their names. The company name or its domain name should be one of the best selling tools the company has. It should command instant recognition and awareness.

If you’re big enough and have enough money you can choose whatever name for the company you wish. So you can think up a completely new word, like Xerox or Sony or Nike, and then massively promote it. That’s one way that our gorilla friend might choose.

Even then, there are names and there are names. PwC Consultants decided it would go for the name, Monday. Thankfully the name seems to have disappeared without trace when IBM acquired PwC. You can read more on that sorry tale in an SMM article on company and domain names.

You’ll also read there about the launching of my favourite company name, Accenture . That was the choice of Anderson Consultants, who badly needed a new name. But to choose one that’s untypeable seems particularly eccentric. The only thing that can be said for that name is that it does come early in the alphabet.

Ideally, even if you’re a gorilla-sized company, you should choose a name that at least gives a hint of what you do. So names like Toys-R-Us, Second Cup or Chapters would seem to have the edge over names like FAO Schwarz, Starbucks or Amazon.

Of course if you have a more modest-sized company and want to use your cash and energy well, you’ll want to be selecting a company name that will really perform well for you. Someone hearing the name for the first time should instantly know what the company might do for them. Any thinking primate should find that a no-brainer decision.

Domain Names Are Only For Human Beings

You should be able to rely on something as prestigious as The Wall Street Journal. Yesterday in their online Startup Journal for Entrepreneurs, there was an article, How to Choose A Domain Name. There was a lot of good advice there in relation to domain names and human beings. However there was some advice that is a common misconception and might lead people to spend money needlessly. Kelly Spors, the Staff Reporter, wrote the following:

Using descriptive words in a domain name also might help propel you near the top of a keyword search for businesses like yours — something that can make a huge difference in traffic to your site.

Well it’s true that being top in a keyword search for your business can make a huge difference in traffic to your site. What isn’t true is that the domain name will be a big factor in that happening. Continue reading

Listening To Customers May Not Be Customer-Centric

Listening to Customers must be good. Clearly it’s much better than Not Listening To Customers. However Kathy Sierra in her blog, Creating Passionate Users, has a most though-provoking item, Listening to users considered harmful?

Kathy Sierra was most struck by meeting Pat Parelli, the founder of a hugely successful, multi-million dollar company that is involved in Natural Horsemanship. As she says, “His company is one of the few we’ve found that does virtually everything on our “reverse-engineering passion” checklists, without having first waited for the fans to do it themselves”. What caused her to think was this remark from Pat Parelli: “No, listening to our members was maybe 20% of it, but the other 80% was something else.” He then goes on to say that they know better than their customers what will give the best customer experience.

It goes back to that old concept in logical thinking of a Necessary condition as opposed to a Sufficient condition. Of course it’s necessary that you listen to your customers. But that isn’t sufficient to guarantee success. Something more is required. Being product-driven rather than customer-centric isn’t the answer. So where is the balance? Continue reading

Is Your Website “Unsafe At Any Speed”

Many website owners will instantly relate to the title of this Newsletter. Conversely many website designers will not understand the message in the title. What explains the difference in reactions? Well it’s the generation gap.

“Unsafe At Any Speed” is the short title of a book published in 1965 almost 40 years ago. The full title is “Unsafe At Any Speed; The Designed-In Dangers Of The American Automobile” written by Ralph Nader. His message was that some of the fine looking automobiles being produced by Detroit were killing people. One of Nader’s targets was the GM Corvair. GM was so incensed that they pursued Nader and tried to discredit him. He survived the attacks and eventually it was GM and others who had to react and modify their automobile designs. Continue reading

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