Windows Phone: A Weak Name For The Microsoft Smartphone

As I pointed out in a post on Technorati, Microsoft Smartphones Really Should Sell Better.  That also seems to be the view of the Microsoft board which reduced the bonus of the  CEO Steve Ballmer partly based on weakened smartphone sales. After conducting an annual performance review of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the software giant’s Board of Directors took him to task for poor sales of its Windows Phone 7 operating system, dampened Windows revenue and the “need for further progress” with new form factors, awarding him just half of his maximum yearly bonus. Clearly Microsoft is competing with two very strong competitors, Apple and Google.  However it has the talents and the financial resources to match them in a toe-to-toe fight.  The Windows Phone certainly seems to have some strong technology behind it and from the website, the Windows Phone would seem to match up well against its competitors, the iPhone and Android phones, offering Easier sharing, smarter apps, and a better web. So what explains the poor performance in the marketplace?

The Importance Of A Strong Product Name

Probably few would argue that a strong product name is a prerequisite for satisfactory sales performance.  A well-chosen name should create a positive perception of the product in a potential customer’s mind.  It also should be one which is easily searched for on the Internet and which can easily be found.  It should not create any confusion or question marks in the buyer’s mind.  You might have thought these reasons would be no-brainers.

Some Big Company Product Name Bloopers

Despite the obvious reasons for selecting a strong product name, there are a number of horror stories one can quote from the past.  Two examples of bad product nameswere chosen by major management consulting groups over ten years ago.
It should be obvious that people should have no difficulty in typing the chosen name.  Yet Accenture chose to include an unprintable accent in its official name, which we can only display as an image. An even more impossible-to-believe product name was that chosen by PwC Consulting.  They copyrighted the name Monday as their new name.  With such a name, they would never have been found on the Internet.  Perhaps it is not surprising that they were shortly thereafter swallowed up by IBM and the name Monday vanished without trace.

Why Big Companies Settle For Bad Product Names

Any good marketing campaign to introduce a new product or indeed company is always lengthy.  Many of the key parameters cannot be defined until the product name has been chosen.  This puts pressure on a name selection process selection which is not too long. In this time compressed program, any of the two following processes may result in a less than satisfactory product name.  If a committee is involved, then usually a compromise name must be selected which has no violent opposition.  The chance of an innovative name succeeding in this selection process is very low. In some companies of course, everything is run from the top.  If the alpha male who runs the company prefers a particular name, then who will choose to rock the boat rather than meekly jumping on the bandwagon.  Sometimes the resulting name can be good but not always.

Why Windows Phone Is Weak

I have no knowledge of the precise process by which Microsoft chose to give the name Windows Phone to its range of smartphones.  Anyone living within the Microsoft culture might well feel that the name Windows will provide clear product identification.  It does of course alienate a certain proportion of the population but they would probably not buy anything from Microsoft anyway. There is a certain perverse logic in going for the simple word Phone to signal the simplicity that will be involved in using this mobile device. Unfortunately perhaps more importantly it will work in the reverse direction of that intended and suggest that this is not a smart phone. Of course the actual product name is only one factor in the market success of a product, but my own personal judgment is that the name Windows Phone will prove to be a poor choice.  This is particularly so in a market place where two very strong competitors have already established positions that will be difficult to beat.

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