Living the Brand

By Michael Flanakin @ 12:01 AM :: 2451 Views :: Technology, Other :: Digg it!

One thing you pick up when you start with any company is to not use competing companies’ products -- after all, you're giving the "enemy" money. With Microsoft, this is seemingly amplified because the company covers so many areas. And, if you find a field that Microsoft isn’t in now, you can put money on the fact that it’s only a matter of time... assuming it’s a worthwhile field. The best example has to be the Zune Mobile-ready link media player, which is most notably an iPod competitor. It seems like the hardest for most people to get over is the Google switch; although iPod is also another one that's been coming up. From what I've seen, there aren't too many Mac users, but I'm sure they're out there. Interally, people refer to this as "drinking the kool-aid," which is probably a trademark infringement, but oh well. I guess that's exactly what my post is about: genericizing, or globalizing, brands.

Before I really get to the point, tho, let me say a few things. First and foremost, I am by no means saying that Microsoft is forcing or wishes to force its employees (or anyone, for that matter) to use their products/services. Honestly, it all comes down to economics and "living the brand." When people see you, a company representative -- whether you like it or not -- using a competitor's product/service, you're telling them that your company just doesn't cut it and isn't good enough. In other words, you don't buy Company X, so why should they? Next thing you know, your friends and family start to drift away from Company X, and then their friends and family, and then their friends and family... You get the idea. It's the pyramid scheme. I'm not saying you need to profess the wonderful goodness of Company X's products/services, but don't drive existing and potential customers away. You may think that one person's pittance isn't going to affect the market, but the ripple effect will change things over time; especially when you and others around you continually share your negative thoughts/feelings. If you feel something is so bad, take it back to the people in charge and try to get it fixed. Help better Company X. If you're an employee, you have stock in the company.

Recently, a friend asked me how long it took me to stop using Google and switch to Live search Mobile-ready link. I told him, "The first time I saw the numbers." Google makes money on ever search, whether you click a link or not. Given the number of searches I do in a day, I would basically contribute an upwards of $1000 to the Google fund a day -- yes, I do a LOT of searching. Granted, it's not always that much and the weekends are typically a little lower, but you get the idea. Taking weekends out of the picture completely and considering that I've been using Google for about 7 years, I've basically given the company around $1,820,000. How much have you given them? Google was a great search engine, I'll give you that; but now that Live is here, I see no difference and experience no problems. Plus, I'd rather give that $1.8M to a company that I'll see direct benefits from -- in pay, stock, and other benefits.

I'll be the first to say that Microsoft, along with every company, has its faults. The products aren't all the best of the best; however, across the board, Microsoft is always in the upper eschelon. There may be slow starts, but new products/services typically get there in style. One of the best examples is SharePoint Mobile-ready link. SharePoint started out rocky with a very hard-to-use initial version that was pretty much a waste of time to try to use -- ok, maybe not that bad, but you get the idea. The second release was 10-fold better, making it truly viable for enterprise consumption. This upcoming release takes that last upgrade and blows it out of the water. SharePoint is now positioned to be a driving force in the web arena. I expect to see the number of public SharePoint sites growing relatively exponentially over the next few years.

Ok, enough running my mouth (err, fingers); time to get to the point... globalizing brands. One thing that we've started to do is use brand names instead of product names. This happens more often than you might think, tho. Heck, I just did it when I said, "drinking the kool-aid." Perhaps we should change that? Think about it, when's the last time you said, "tissue paper"? You don't. You say Kleenex, don't you? I bet some (propbably younger generations) don't even realize that it's a brand. It doesn't stop there, either: Yo-Yo and Xerox, for instance. Nowadays, people are starting to say, "Google it!" Well, Google doesn't even like that idea that this is happening -- the company is worried about losing its trademark. That's not the problem I have, tho. The problem I have is when you work for a Google competitor, yet you publicly reference Google as if it were the best choice. Case and point, a recent YouTube submission from a Microsoft employee Mobile-ready link. Within the video, there's a reference to "googling" something. This shouldn't be happening... seriously.

Onto my next big gripe... As I mentioned, Google Search and Apple iPod are probably the 2 biggest internal competition problems at Microsoft. The problem I have with iPod is almost the same as with Google: genercizing the brand name. This is probably more prevalent in the tech community, but within the few years, the concept of podcasts has permiated the web. Basically, this is just a sound recording you can consume with any media device, with an emphasis on mobile devicecs, of course. Now, I don't have a problem with the idea; but, again, live the brand! If you work for a competitor, don't call it a podcast. We need a new name. I'm not saying it should be zunecast, but lets not popularize iPods any more than they already are. When you break it down, it's just steaming media, which is nothing new, so why the new name?

Now I feel better that I've gotten that off my chest. There's so much more to living the brand, but there's no way I can teach you its importance in one post. Hmm... maybe you could Live it Mobile-ready link or I could create a zunecast ;-) But, seriously, this really has nothing to do with Microsoft. This is something you should do with any company you work for. This is how companies succeed. If you don't believe in the company you're working for, why are you there? The concept is common sense to me, but some people just don't get it. For instance -- and just to pull a quick punch on one company that I absolutely despise -- why would any self-respecting IT guy (or gal) work for AOL? I have no idea. Within the tech community, AOL is "internet for dummies" and probably one of the world's largest junk mail senders. Working for the company just seems like tech suicide.

So, the moral of the story is: don't do drugs and "drink the artificially flavored soft drink concentrate beverage."