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The Zune Brand

Zune I received my new 8GB green Zune yesterday. The product has been reviewed extensively, here, here and here, but I wanted to post about improvements to the brand. (Disclosure: Microsoft is a 1066 client, although we did not work directly on the Zune branding).

The first manifestations of the the Zune brand felt over-stated and clumsy. The announcement videos were so far out as to be unapproachable. The awkward "Welcome to the Social" tagline was a well-intentioned attempt to differentiate based on the innovation of wireless sharing. But when this functionality fell short of expectations, mostly due to the 3 plays/3 days DRM limitation, there went the brand differentiator.

The newest brand positioning is less ambitious and ultimately far more successful. I'll admit that when I first saw the ads I was a little skeptical of the "You make it you" concept. Patrick Daughters' trippy, down-the-rabbit-hole advertising was beautiful, but ultimately a every good value proposition must be based on real value. I wondered if "making it you" was a big enough promise. The execution of the brand in the customer experience has convinced me that it does.

The Zune Originals idea is brilliant, simple and flawlessly executed. The range of artists commissioned, the quality of the illustrations and the pleasingly tactile end result all amounts to a very satisfying and unique brand experience. By giving the customer a hand in the creation of the product, the "make it you" idea is paid off very well. I can't think of a more successful mass customization of a consumer electronics product.

A recent visit to the Zune "store" within my local Target felt more like the Zune v1 branding, but with a much better line-up of accessories and better product displays.

Microsoft knows that it is facing an uphill battle against iPod/iTunes. In this second act the Zune team has hit upon a brand concept that both complements the Microsoft brand and serves to differentiate against the established player. The challenge now will be to sustain the brand over time and resist the urge to go into continual reinvention mode.

November 22, 2007 in Branding, Digital lifestyle, New product launches | Permalink


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