Brand Diaspora

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Pronounced “dayh –AS –por-ah,” the word refers to any group migration or flight from a country or region. I first started using “diaspora” in conjunction with the word “brand” when working as a planner for an agency on Microsoft. 

As a planner and seller of technology goods in a market dominated by Microsoft for many years, you couldn’t help but bump up against them. Envy them. Be angered by them. And use them contextually. The Microsoft ethos made it into many a brief and marcom plan.  Grouchos, for instance, was a target I created to refer to Microsoft haters who loved open source and were repelled by all things Microsoft. A planning rigor I developed called “brand spanking” was the result of this people’s willingness to discuss and spank market leaders.

One of Microsoft’s biggest failings over the last 15 years and one which has impacted brand value is something I call brand diaspora.  Microsoft’s brand and sub-brands have been allowed to meander, disperse and diffuse from the homeland. And in many cases they’ve gotten lost.

As I look at all the product and service names, naming extensions, release numbers, calendar years and portfolio reorganizations my head spins.  From a company that invented the first software suite, Microsoft Office, a brilliant naming convention, we’ve seen quite a perplexing mishmash: Windows Live, SkyDrive, Office 2007, Office 2010, Office Live, Office Web Apps, Live@Edu, Office Live Small Business, Live Meeting, OneNote, Office 360, Windows Azure, Windows 7, Windows 7 for Mobile, Outlook, Exchange, Access, Publisher, Office Professional Plus, Sharepoint, Communications Servers, Windows Server Hyper-V, Windows Live Mesh, Hotmail, Outlook Express. And that doesn’t scratch the surface.

I actually love the good things Microsoft has done for the world. And it’s natural to pick on the overdog, but technologists, with all their 1 and 0s, have never been great at branding and brand planning. Brand Diaspora is one sad result. Peace.