Enough Branding Jokes: Why Windows Live Hotmail is a good name that’s bad

By Kip Kniskern | In Opinion | Posted February 9, 2007 5 comments

Really.  At some point this has just got to stop.  Someone has got to get enough Kahunas at Microsoft to figure out a branding strategy for Windows Live, stick with it, and get on with the business of building a brand that can compete in the marketplace.  Truthfully, calling it Windows Live Hotmail is not a bad move, in itself.  Hotmail is a familiar brand, one that is used everyday worldwide.  It makes a lot of sense to keep it.  But making another mid stream correction, another change of course,  shows us so much about the lack of a cohesive strategy for Windows Live.  Why wasn’t this done sooner?  Why was the Windows Live Mail name promoted only to be changed at the 11th hour (just call it Kahuna til it’s released, sheesh!). In a coincidence that literally made us laugh out loud, Microsoft corporate vice-president Soma Somesegar posted last week on strategy, and included this gem:

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory…
Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”   Sun Tzu

We are not the only ones who wonder if there is indeed a strategy around the Windows Live brand.  Recently, Joe Wilcox posted on the Live branding issue, and offered some reasons why things are not going well (comments in italics are mine):

Clearly Live isn’t working out as well as Microsoft had hoped, and there are plenty of reasons:

  • Building a new brand takes time. Microsoft managers may believe in the appeal of the Office and Windows brands, but Live makes for something new. New branding requires lots of supporting marketing and time to build meaningful equity. (True, but it also requires some commitment to that brand.  Figuring it out as you go is just not good enough)
  • Live is too much MSN with a new label. The majority of Live products or services either existed under MSN or, if new, aren’t that original. Microsoft can only imitate Google for so long. When I survey the landscape of new Live products, the majority are knockoffs of something released by Google or another Web platform company. As for the stuff kicked over from MSN, a new label doesn’t make for a successful product. (And here again, Microsoft waffles on whether or not to brand products as Windows Live or MSN.  Soapbox only added to the confusion, and now we’re hearing of other Windows Live beta products being re-rebranded back to MSN) 
  • Microsoft fumbled at the worst possible time. The company chose to build its search technology and advertising platform, just as Google really gained momentum. Maybe if Yahoo had done better competing with Google, Microsoft would have had time enough to get its stuff to market. But Google greatly benefited from mistakes made by both its closest search rivals. In December, according to Nielsen//NetRatings, Google search share topped 50 percent, more than double Yahoo. Microsoft came in, even at No. 3, with a paltry 8.4 percent. (My old saw: all of the arrogance of a monopoly with almost none of the market share.  Coming into this market haphazardly without a razor sharp strategy simply isn’t going to work) 
  • Microsoft is paralyzed by organizational uncertainty. (All I can say here is AMEN!) Executive exits and changes coupled with a couple corporate reorganizations over the past 18 months have sucked some life out of Live. Some of the people responsible for the Live brand strategy are no longer involved in the process. Unless incoming chief software architect Ray Ozzie takes leadership and ownership for Live, it’s hard to see how the situation can quickly improve.

We’ve posted before too, about “where’s Ray?”, and tonite none other than Mini-Microsoft asks the same question, which tells us that Ray’s silence extends internally.  It makes us edgy, too, Mini!

What Microsoft has going for it of course is great wealth, the ability to withstand some otherwise deadly mistakes and flounder along like this without having to worry about folding up the tent.  MS, too, still has some cards to play, and even now Windows Live has not been fully revealed.  MS insiders tell us that there’s lots of cool stuff to come.  That’s all great, but in the meantime Windows Live is taking a beating out in the marketplace.  The brand is going nowhere.  Bill Gates at CES talked quite a bit about “Live Services”, but not much at all about Windows Live.  And of course Ray Ozzie was nowhere to be found (although he will be keynoting Mix07).

Certainly, in looking at the search numbers Joe Wilcox quotes, Microsoft is taking if anything a slow route to victory.  Let’s hope all this talk about the Windows Live brand is not the noise before defeat.

Posted February 9th, 2007 at 5:05 pm
Category: Opinion
Tags: Hotmail
  • mark_memory


    windows live hotmail,i reall like it.
    hotmail is a well known brand,and it’s a new brand too as a part of windows live products.

    not like windows live mail,not so speicial,just an ordinary name.live hotmail easily let people know and feel those old times and things.

    so it’s very good name without saying.

  • http://khristopherr.spaces.live.com Khristopher

    All I’m going to say is that I’m disappointed in Windows Live after putting so much time into it.

  • bf1977

    I you finding the this historia to change the name of Windows Live Mail for Windows Live Hotmail a tremendous nonsense. If the person has an email hotmail.com or msn.com that respectively continues being called Hotmail and MSN. Now if the person has live.com the name really has that to be Windows Live Mail. If they want to move that it is thus: @hotmail.com = Windows Live Hotmail @live.com = Windows Live Mail Now to move to help who does not know to differentiate a product of the other ai already is accumulates it of the nonsense. I did not make no confusion and believe that the majority that also has access the Liveside will not confuse nothing. Microsoft leaves as he is, if wants to move only changes the name of the Hotmail, leaves the Windows Live Mail in peace!
    The Microsoft is stepping on in the ball with this history !

  • CalumJR

    “Heard Us Loud and Clear” did they?!?!?!

    Well they didn’t hear me! “Windows Live Hotmail” – How ridiculous! I loved all of the Windows Live services! Mainly because they were professional and they were fairly consistent. I’ve always hated the “Hotmail” name! It isn’t professional and sounds like a kid aged 11 has made it for a little school project! I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard that “MSN Hotmail” was changing to “Windows Live Mail” – the name sounds awesome and why can’t people change with the times! They could put a message on the Hotmail website to say “MSN Hotmail has now changed to Windows Live Mail” and then explain underneath and put the new URL “mail.live.com” written there. Then they could redirect people to their WLM page when they sign-in! It’s simple! Saying people need to get used to the change slowly is pathetic! And those people are pathetic!

    Where is the consistency in “Windows Live Hotmail”??? The instant messenger is called “Windows Live Messenger”; the search is called “Windows Live Search”; the favorites organiser is called “Windows Live Favorites”; the e-mail service should be called “Windows Live Mail”

    Also, what is going to happen to Windows Live Mail desktop??? The biggest and worst inconsistency if they are bringing back the stupid childish “Hotmail” name! If they are adament on changing the name to “WL Hotmail” (going against what the majority of their customer’s prefer!) then at least have the decency to change the desktop mail client so it is consistent and change the name to “WL Hotmail desktop”

    They could have had a poll embedded in everyone’s WL Mail to ask them if they wanted the name change! Or they could have put a poll on their WL Space (MailCall).

    This is one of the worst descisions the Windows Live team have made since changing “Windows Live Videos” to “MSN Soapbox” and in fact keeping the stupid MSN name going anyway is ridiculous and will allow people top continue calling WL Messenger “MSN”. They could make a service called “Windows Live News” (as that is all MSN does), put different sections like Entertainment, Business, etc, and then scrap MSN altogether!

    Also, what is going to happen to the domains in the e-mail addresses now? Please don’t tell me they are going to keep “@hotmail.com”, “@hotmail.co.uk”; etc?!?!?!

    They still need to change everyone’s “@hotmail” and “@msn” e-mail addresses to “@live” because “Hotmail” is just one of the “Windows Live” services, there are many other “WL” services which people use their Windows Live ID for without the stupid “Hotmail” name.

    Another reason for not changing to Windows Live Hotmail is that is is much longer to say than “Windows Live Mail” and “MSN Hotmail” – Longer sentance and more sillables!

    “Windows Live Mail” all the way! Come on guys! Do the right and consistent thing. If they read all the comments, they’d see that the majority of people want the “Hotmail” name dropped! Or they may find many customers turning to others like G-Mail or Yahoo Mail!…

    Signed – A very disappointed and angry loyal “Windows Live Mail” fan and customer!

  • LosHavros

    The road not taken…at the meeting deciding the brand names for their new strategy, they should have decided….hmm, we should stick with MSN branding for all our services. MSN did/still does have big brand power. Heads should roll for this complete screw-up in my opinion. The state Microsoft are in now with their ‘Live’ services makes me cringe.