The question over whether or not Microsoft's brand is strong can be difficult to answer. Microsoft supporters could easily point to the company's dominance in the software market to prove that it has a well-respected brand. After all, if the company's brand was poor, how could it sell so many licenses and generate such a huge profit each year?
That's understandable. But if that's all Microsoft would cling to in such a discussion, it's rather short-sighted. Microsoft does have a major brand issue. Its brand is not even close to matching that of Apple's or Google's, two companies that consistently make the software giant look bad. That's something that the company needs to understand. And until it realizes that its future will be in jeopardy until its brand is revitalized, Microsoft will continue to flounder.
This is how Microsoft can rebuild its ailing brand.
1. Say goodbye to Ballmer
The first thing Microsoft should do to rebuild its brand is get rid of Steve Ballmer. Yes, he has generated profits since he became CEO of the company. But he has also presided over the downright failure of the company's online and mobile divisions. Under his watch Google has become very powerful in markets that Microsoft failed to exploit. In addition, Ballmer is a member of Microsoft's Old Guard. And that alone makes the company's brand look outdated. Ballmer has to go, if not for the sake of Microsoft's future profit growth, then for the sake of the company's brand.
2. Forget Windows Phone 7
Windows Phone 7 is all the talk in Redmond right now. But when it's all said and done and Windows Phone 7 finally needs to compete against Android OS and iOS, it will be clear that Microsoft has lost its way. It's already apparent that Windows Phone 7 lacks key features, which means the mobile operating system is starting so far behind, it could be impossible to catch up. This makes Windows Phone 7 look like more of the same catch-up fare that Microsoft has been putting out in the market in recent years. That's the last thing the company needs.
3. Go back to the enterprise
Microsoft is still a wildly successful company when it comes to enterprise adoption. In light of that, maybe it's time that the software giant goes back to its roots and sharpens its focus on technology for the enterprise. After all, that was a key component in its rise in the industry. It's no secret that its consumer shift has hurt it. The corporate world could help revive Microsoft's brand. It's at least worth a shot.
4. Start focusing on the Web
It's time for Microsoft to also focus its time on the Internet. Bing is a good first step, but it needs to do more. The software giant must be a leader in the cloud. It should also find ways to trump Google's online applications, like Docs. Google is holding the high ground online right now. And the onus is on Microsoft to take it. The company can only do that if it revitalizes its brand through the Internet.