Is Microsoft starting to get its branding act together?

Today, at Advance08, Microsoft unveiled a new brand name, Microsoft Advertising, and a new logo, which amazingly enough seems to fit into an overall scheme of recent logos.  Take a look at these:

2781.msadvertising_thumb News

live%20mesh_thumb News

silverlight_thumb News

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(there are more, thanks to VasiS for noticing in the comments)

cov126_thumb News This month’s Fast Company magazine has a cover story on Alex Bogusky and Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the ad agency recently hired to run the $300 million dollar ad campaign Microsoft is planning for this summer.  While none of these logos and designs are from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the new campaign may shed further light on how Microsoft is preparing to present itself to the world.  Clearly someone is paying attention to the ridicule that Microsoft has brought upon itself by not paying attention to consumer focused issues like branding and logos, and how much effect those issues are starting to have on even Microsoft’s core businesses.  Would Vista be doing better in the enterprise if it wasn’t being assaulted by the consumer press and by rivals like Apple? Perhaps not, but there are clear indications to the contrary.

While some of the advertising and marketing gurus here at Advance08 might have something to say about a brand strategy that’s still not quite there, for Microsoft these recent logos seem to have made a quantum leap forward in bringing a consistent theme (and a set of simple product names) together.  Kevin Johnson mentioned Microsoft’s struggles with branding in his memo to his team, issued last Sunday:

4. Fix our online branding – Our brands are fragmented and confusing today, and we recognize a need to clarify and align our online branding. We are now driving forward to address this opportunity.

Microsoft has long been ridiculed for painfully long product names, and had to retreat from a less than well thought out Windows Live branding strategy, if indeed there was any strategy at all in the beginning.  Miraculously, that seems to be changing.  When I pointed out the problems in Live Search headers and logos in a post last week, it was in part because we’ve been told about new branding strategies before, first with Windows Live itself, and then with “the flair”, as Harrison likes to call it.  Then we had a couple of iterations of new design, and while everyone seemed to have new ideas, no one bothered to clean up the old ones.  Hopefully, with a nudge or two from Kevin Johnson, that will begin to change.