Talking tech since 2003

Since the original Xbox first landed in living rooms in 2001, the Xbox line of game consoles have been Microsoft’s shining stars; examples of how good the company when it’s on its game. It’s tough to look through Microsoft’s product catalog and find anything that can be considered as “cool” or as well-liked as the Xbox. On both the original and its predecessor, the Xbox 360, Microsoft provided great experiences and blazed paths that other companies could only hope to follow. Take Xbox Live, for instance — a social network of sorts for online gaming and matchmaking that Microsoft introduced way back in 2002. To this day, it is best in class (though Sony’s PSN is catching up).

It’s understandable, then, that Microsoft might want to take some of that Xbox magic — namely, the good vibes that are attached to the Xbox name — and use it for some of its other products. The company rolled out music and video stores named Xbox Video and Xbox Music, and while these services do integrate with Microsoft’s game consoles, they’re also available on Windows devices that don’t have anything to do with the Xbox.

xbox musicOn top of that, some Windows 8 games are branded with the Xbox name, even though cross-play between the PC and console doesn’t exist. The games do integrate with Xbox Live, but that’s about as far as the “Xbox” in them goes.

All of this got me thinking: is Microsoft’s use of the Xbox brand in non-console and non-gaming instances helping the company or hurting it? Does putting “Xbox” in front of a product make consumers more inclined to check it out, or does it confuse those who think it has something to do with the game console?

I posed these questions to several folks in the branding and marketing space and got some pretty interesting responses.

Mike Sprouse of Sprouse Marketing Group isn’t a fan of Microsoft’s decision to use the Xbox brand in other places. “This will result in either consumer confusion or people not taking the new services seriously,” he said.

Chris Donahue, co-founder of Elevate Partners, believes that Microsoft’s Xbox brand caters more toward the “hard core” crowd and says that “as long as their brand objectives continue to court that audience, they will not get the average consumer to consider their product since it so tightly ties to video games.”

There are some experts who believe Microsoft is using the Xbox brand in a good way. Ignition Branding’s Tony Panaccio believes that the Xbox brand’s extension into all kinds of entertainment has been a long time coming, remarking that “it was an inevitability driven by decade after decade of pursuing the mission of creating that set-top box that delivers to consumers just about every tech-enabled convenience available from a singular device.”

Mr. Panaccio’s answer seems to suggest that Microsoft is perhaps extending Xbox Video, Xbox Music and Xbox games to other devices as a way to pull people back toward its do-it-all set-top box — the Xbox One.

This last response comes from a former Digital Marketing Evangelist at Microsoft, Mel Carson, now the founder of Delightful Communications. Mr. Carson explained his belief that Microsoft’s use of the Xbox brand in other products is being done to broaden the brand’s reach. Maybe Microsoft is purposely trying to dilute it so that it appeals to more than hardcore gamers?

“Xbox has not been just a “games console” for a while now and I reckon with the new services offering such a seamless experience, we’ll see them make great strides in 2014,” said Carson. “Believe me that I’m not a fan of a lot that Microsoft has done, but this is a huge step in the right direction.”

What do you think? Is Microsoft’s use of the Xbox brand becoming too broad? Should the company use Xbox for all kinds of entertainment or just gaming? Drop us a line below with your thoughts.

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