This is the experiment. Randomly-selected participants are asked to score the quality of results from various search engines (the below details may contain some speculation).
One group (A) are presented with results from different search engines but not told which search engine has generated the respective results. Results from Microsoft and Google are presented.
Another group (B, or perhaps the same group at different time?) are told the results (which actually are generated from search engine X, or Microsoft) are by Google.
This is "blind" experiment. Group A is considered to the control group of Group B (I think so). The result is interesting: for Group A, there is no noticeable difference observed for perceived quality of search result between Microsoft's and Google's; for Group B, the perceived quality of search result becomes greater by simply knowing they are from Google. (Story and some commentary is here)
It is this result that leads Microsoft to believe the branding is the root of the problem (rather than the search quality). In coming June Microsoft is said to launch its rebranding campaign (for search) and the latest version of the search engine. The campaign is estimated to cost $100million.
Let us pause for a while.
No doubt, Microsoft perhaps has some misstep in branding its various recent products (eg Live Messenger, Live Search, www.live.com, Live Meeting, Live Search Maps, Windows Live ID, Office Live, Office Live Workspace, XBox Live and the list goes on), as written here in 2007 May, "maybe Microsoft should really think hard on its branding strategy, Live is a boring word, a confusing world".
So branding is indeed overdue. However some possible names rumored on the Internet (including those codenames disclosed) are not so engaging:
I will think of a lot of question marks (???) if any of them makes into the final champion. That might just create more trouble and confusion. Indeed it is difficult to incept a lasting brand. Many succeeded, Youtube, Facebook; but a lot more became derailed. However, Microsoft need make sure she can afford the failures one after another.
Second and more importantly, is the branding the root cause? If the Group A tells no difference, why would people make a willing switch (if not given any other external force?) It is difficult to break consumers' habit or preference of search engine (many tried and failed miserably), especially if the new comer does not produce any significant advantage and the old one does not make apparent fault.
In the end, or a "iPod" is created when the others lack the branding (unlikely for search), or the proflieration and lock-in of inferior products (Microsoft has already done a few times, but not again, unlikely for search), or reaching a higher level or creating a new battle space. So there is no option but the third.
Disclaimer: Btw, I am long on MSFT at the time of writing.
Apr 11 2009, 01:00 PM