Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Good Move: Re-branding Hotmail as

Microsoft announced it is going to re-brand its hugely popular Hotmail web mail service as That's a great move from a branding perspective.

Hotmail has gone through various brand names from a brand architecture perspective. When it was founded in 1996, it was just Hotmail obviously.

When Microsoft bought them in 1997, it was a great strategic move to enter a hot (no pun intended) space. Hotmail got an updated logo.
Then in 1998 it was co-branded MSN Hotmail when it was integrated better with other Microsoft online services. I would've co-branded it with MSN sooner to transfer the brand equity from Hotmail to Microsoft and MSN sooner, but I suspect it wasn't a branding decision but a technical decision (when it was better integrated to MSN) that this was done later.

Then in 2005, when Windows Live was introduced as a new platform for Microsoft's online services, MSN Hotmail was going to be Windows Live Mail, which I thought was a mouthful. But during the beta test, they realized users still preferred the Hotmail name. So what happened? The name go longer and became Windows Live Hotmail. It was bet at the time by Microsoft that the Windows brand could extend from desktop PCs to online. I'm not so sure Windows Live achieved that.

And here we are today. Hotmail is now

I think it's a good move to concentrate their web mail brand equity around Outlook as the online communication hub. Outlook already has that equity from the desktop. Windows Live never really stuck when it was applied to online (Windows Live Hotmail) and desktop (Windows Live Mail Desktop replaced Outlook Express). I always thought Outlook Express was a better name for the consumer email application vs. Outlook for the corporate email application.

Since Outlook is so well-known for corporate email, one could argue it does not need strong Microsoft, Office, or Windows brand linkage. And not even Hotmail. Let's see what happens...


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