Microsoft's Live brand for search and online services needs to be fixed, according to a senior executive. Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft's platforms and services division, told the Search Marketing Expo conference in Seattle that Microsoft's marketing team is working to make its search brand more competitive with Google and Yahoo.
Fix or Change
This admission comes after the Redmond, Wash.-based company abandoned last month its nearly $50 billion takeover bid for Yahoo, which was widely seen as an effort to bolster the Microsoft search engine and other services.
When Microsoft envisioned merging its search engine with Yahoo, Johnson said, the combined companies would have resulted in a new offering, and a campaign to market a new brand would have resulted. But, he added, since the merger is not happening, "our marketing teams are liberated to go solve that brand problem."
According to the Associated Press, Johnson was asked if the company wanted to change its search brand instead of merely fixing it.
"Fix means fix," Johnson reportedly replied. "If that means change, we'll change."
The Live brand has been used to describe a wide range of Web sites and applications from Microsoft. But some observers have said there is market confusion, such as what is Live and what is MSN, or the Microsoft Network, and the differences between the two. As an example, Microsoft's Hotmail and Messenger have both brands.
The Microsoft search engine is the third most popular, after Google and Yahoo. According to ComScore, Google took about 60 percent of all search queries in April, and Yahoo about 20 percent, while Microsoft is about nine percent. This means Google gets more than six times as many search requests as Microsoft, and Yahoo gets more than twice as many.
The company has been moving to differentiate its approach in various ways, such as by emphasizing transactions. This has included a "cashback" shopping search site that offers buyers rebates from advertisers, a travel search site called Farecast, and other initiatives.
Johnson has also mentioned real estate as another area in which Microsoft's search services can be differentiated. He has told news media that the company is considering other "disruptive ways to change the paradigm," such as with user experiences or ways in which consumers connect to the service.
Microsoft is also continuing to move aggressively to position its search engine. Earlier this week, it announced that the Live Search tool bar will be the default search program on all Hewlett-Packard personal computers sold in the U.S. and Canada, starting in January. Interestingly, the default engine it will replace on those machines is Yahoo, which has been the default on most consumer PCs sold in the U.S. and Canada, except for Dell machines, which feature Google.
A spokesperson for Microsoft indicated that there was a financial arrangement, although specifics were not released.
Image credit: Product shot by Microsoft.