Steve Ballmer: …I think we could use a ‘set change’, as they say in organizational behavior classes. Whether it’s called ‘Kumo’ — that’s an interesting name — or something else.

[Again, Steve added a joking emphasis to “interesting name,” and the crowd laughed.]

Steve Adler: What does ‘Kumo’ mean?

Steve Ballmer: I don’t think it means anything! [More crowd laughter.]

Personal note: After Steve’s talk, in the press room, another journalist turned to me and asked: Hey, how do you spell Kumo? That’s not a question Microsoft wants people asking.

For those who hadn’t heard about it, Microsoft has been considering fixing their “Windows Live Search / Live / MSN / ? ” branding confusion, by renaming Microsoft Search to Kumo.com.

While the idea to rebrand is a good one in principle (and it’s not like MSFT has much search market share to lose in any event), “Kumo” as a brand name will decidedly NOT get it done:

Notice the telling and perfectly correct observation about spelling issues in the end note of the post excerpt. Major brand name fail if it doesn’t pass the “easy pass-through without spelling out” test. One strike against.

Even more importantly, the name Kumo has almost nothing going FOR it. It doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, nor does it intuitively suggest much of anything about the product (i.e. search).

For more on this, check out a list of brand name caveats I wrote a while back here:

http://businessmindhacks.com/post/wallop-microsofts-branding-cluelessness-claims-another-victim

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