According to a recent TechCrunch article, Microsoft is planning to rename its Live Search product, Kumar, which means cloud or spider in Japanese. What Microsoft needs to learn, and what the Get a Mac ads have captured so well, is that it's not about PR or branding or the name of the products, it's about the products behind the brand. Until they learn that, they are just going to wallow in corporate mediocrity and be subjected to well-deserved ridicule.
Seinfeld Didn't Change Vista
This obsession with the surface seems to go back to last summer when Microsoft decided that the problem with Vista, was not that it was an awful operating system, but that it had an image problem. Microsoft concluded that the way to solve that image problem was to hire a has-been comedian to act as its spokesperson. This smacked of bad idea from the get-go As I wrote at the time in Microsoft Seinfeld Strategy is Pathetic:
First of all, the problem is not just one of perception. A PR blitz suggests that Microsoft has produced a dazzling product in Vista, but the foolish masses have failed to grasp how good it is. All it will take is a funny ad and we all be lining up to get Vista. It's simply not going to work because the problem is that Vista is a flawed product and everyone realizes that.
As it turned out the ads did nothing but subject Microsoft to more derision, and as expected, the ads were just awful as I wrote about in The First Seinfeld Ad is a Dud. After a couple of additional attempts, they thankfully pulled the plug.
Live Search Lags
Now they hope to make Live Search more popular by giving it a new name. You may recall that Microsoft tried paying people last spring to use its service. This strategy successfully drove up the numbers for a couple of months before the novelty wore off and people went back to the more comfortable Google search. If Microsoft couldn't even pay people to use its search, does it really believe that rebranding the search will work?
If this were a new product coming out of the gate, Kumar is a clever name, but it's not new. It's the same old, same old, with a nice new name. PR didn't change Vista's fate and a new name is not going to attract more users to Live Search. It's another lame surface attempt to fool the public into using your products.
Here's a crazy idea: How about trying some innovation. Maybe if you did something interesting and new, and publicized that, maybe the users will come, but if you can't pay them to use the current product, chances are a renaming strategy is going to fail miserably too.