A few days ago, Microsoft made it official – it is killing off the Internet Explorer brand. The move is understandable, as IE is a brand with baggage and bad connotations for a significant portion of the Internet surfing public, who saw the browser as slow and outdated.
Soon – the thinking is sometime in April – Microsoft will introduce a new browser with a new brand.
And what will they call the new browser? As Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela said, “we have to name the thing.”
This is no small matter. The brand Microsoft chooses will be front-and-center for millions of its customers. This is an opportunity for Microsoft to send a message that it’s no longer your grandfather’s gateway to the Internet; that’s hip and cool.
So where will they turn? Here’s my guess: Halo.
Halo is the wildly popular XBOX game which Microsoft just happens to own. The brand equity it carries is significant. Check out this snapshot of global search queries, comparing Internet Explorer to Halo.
The spikes in Halo search traffic are when new games were released. That changed in December, when Halo seems to have permanently passed IE in search popularity. Clearly, this brand has strength.
Halo fans have long complained that Microsoft has milked Halo as a cash cow; well, now they’re milking the brand.
Over the last year, we’ve seen them dip into the world of Halo to borrow the game series’ brand equity for naming new initiatives. In the 2nd Quarter of 2014, they named the personal assistant on Windows phones Cortana, after the artificial intelligence character in Halo. And they mined Halo’s brand equity again more recently, naming the new browser initiative Project Spartan. Spartan is a super soldier program in Halo.
So maybe we’ll soon be off-roading through the Internet in Microsoft Warthog, blasting through social channels via Microsoft Wraith, or screaming across digital pathways on Microsoft Banshee.
We won’t know the precise new brand until it’s announced, but it seems clear that Microsoft has every intention of leveraging the Halo brand to manufacture goodwill and connect with a younger, tech-savvy audience.
For us gamer geeks, it’s pretty cool. And from a branding perspective it’s smart business – changing the conversation and creating a new context in which to operate.
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