Reclaiming Past Glories: Microsoft, eBay and Brand Marketing


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brand marketingWe’re reaching a watershed in Internet history; we’re at a point where there are adults who have never lived in a world without the Internet. That’s mind-blowing for those of us who remember getting their very first modem. The mid-nineties Internet will be remembered for things like the screeching sound of dial up or not being bothered by a website that took minutes, whole minutes, to load. In the last few weeks we’ve seen two icons from that period in Internet history go through a bit of a change.

When the Internet first started to appear in homes all around the world, Microsoft and eBay were two of its most important brands. Browsing eBay was a common pastime for teenagers in the nineties. We never bought anything, but being able to see what others were selling was fascinating in the early days of online shopping. In those days Internet Explorer and Microsoft held the key to everything online, if you were on eBay, you were on Internet explorer. It’s interesting to see both companies engage in new brand marketing campaigns within a month of one another. But it’s not surprising.

Brand Marketing Wisdom from Lisa Simpson

There’s an episode of another nineties stalwart, The Simpsons, where they state that adding a new character to a TV show is a desperate attempt by a failing show to boost ratings. Although neither eBay nor Microsoft could be described as failing, that sentiment could cover relaunching your brand marketing too. In many ways Microsoft and eBay have the same problems, and the same reasons for the changes in brand marketing.

They both have a rival that used to be inferior but is now the leader in their chosen market. For eBay that rival is Amazon, a near non-profit online bookstore while eBay’s became billionaires in 1998, now the world’s largest online retailer. In Microsoft’s case, it’s even more damning, they rescued Apple from oblivion in the nineties and now their in its shadow. Now both companies are looking to shake off tired images. While Amazon and Apple, rivals in their own right these days, looked sleek, cool and innovative; people began to see Microsoft and eBay as old hat and uncool. They used to be leaders in an exciting new online world. Now they’re a car boot sale and a dinosaur.

No Brand is Too Big for Brand Marketing

The reason may be the same too, they both ignored brand marketing. Both eBay and Microsoft are the kinds of companies that you imagine are too big for marketing. Everyone already knows who they are and what they do, so why do they need to market the brand? That may have been the internal thinking too, because neither company ever engaged in any particularly aggressive marketing. And while they continued to succeed financially they remained silent, beyond informing us of updates or new products.

The brand marketing, the messages about company ethos and brand identity, was non-existent. As a result, we made up our own minds about them and we decided that Microsoft was for accountants and eBay was for antique dealers. Meanwhile, Apple, Google and Amazon took over. With Microsoft’s complete redesign for Windows 8 and sleek new logo and eBay’s similarly sleek new logo and further emphasis on retail; the old boys are fighting back.

The question now is, will it be enough? Neither company is on its knees, but they’re both way behind their rivals. These new logos and new brand marketing campaigns may not be last chances for survival. But they might represent both companies’ last attempt at reaching the top of the market.

Only time will tell if either brand marketing exercise will make that much of a difference. One thing is clear though; this change in strategy is long overdue.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Eoin Keenan
Media and Content Manager at Silicon Cloud. We help businesses to drive leads and build customer relationships through online marketing and social media. I blog mainly about social media & marketing, with some tech thrown in for good measure. All thoughts come filtered through other lives in finance, ecommerce, customer service and journalism.


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