I read an interesting article today by, of all people, a venture partner discussing Microsoft’s evolving brand strategy. The article, by James Joaquin, juxtaposes the renaming of MSN Search to “Microsoft Windows Live Search” versus the simple brand structure of Google Search.
Joaquin points out that as Microsoft has grown, it has faced the problem many growing companies face — growing the brand and creating a brand naming structure that supports the parent brand (Microsoft) while allow new products to have their own sub-brands (Windows). By renaming MSN search to “Microsoft Windows Live Search”, Microsoft has created a brand that is three sub-brands deep (Windows, Live, Search), as illustrated in his Microsoft brand diagram:
On the other hand, Google maintains a very simple brand approach. The main brand is Google and the sub-brands are Search, Maps, Images, Earth, etc., as he illustrated in this diagram:
As the diagrams clearly demonstrate, Google’s brand structure is likely far easier for the general user to understand versus the complex structure at Microsoft. But Google may too face the same challenge as Microsoft before too long.
As Google continues to acquire new technologies and other firms, its brand will have to continually evolve. And thus, before too long, we may even have sub-brands of sub-brands with Google. But for now, Google has a definite brand recognition advantage over Microsoft.