Swapping 'Surface' for 'Lumia' -- is Microsoft really about to commit branding suicide?

face-palm-head-in-hands-embarassed croppedBoneheaded. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think about Microsoft abandoning its Surface branding in favor of Nokia Lumia.

You see, successful branding is a tricky business. Getting people to internalize your brand or product name as part of their everyday vocabulary is a herculean task. Coke did it. So did Xerox and Kleenex. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone to "Xerox" something, or asked the person next to me to pass me the box of "Kleenex".

And Coke? I’d like to buy the world one and then teach it to sing in perfect harmony. Enough said.

Now we have Surface. And for the first time in my rapidly declining memory, an IT product not made by Apple has achieved this kind of popular brand identity.

When I’m in a meeting, and someone asks me to pass them their iPad, there’s no question as to which device they’re referring. Likewise, when someone asks me to pass them their Surface, there’s absolutely no confusion about the request. They want me to pick up that slick-looking slab of magnesium and glass -- the one with the Microsoft branding all over it -- and hand it across the table.

You can’t say the same about any other Windows-based PC or device. You don’t hear people saying "pass me my HP Envy x2," or "hand me my ASUS Transformer Pad T-whatever".

You might hear them say "pass me my tablet". But tablet is a generic term. There is nothing uniquely identifying or iconic about the word tablet. They could just as well be asking you to pass them a slab of baked clay covered in cuneiform.

But Surface? Here, Microsoft has actually pulled-off the impossible: It’s created an iconic product/brand identifier and embedded it into the public’s consciousness.

I knew this to be true the first time I heard Joe Average Consumer asking his companion whose "Surface" she was holding while waiting in the return line at a local retailer (just to be clear, she was NOT there to return the Surface).

And this was way back in April of 2013! A year of additional brand building progress later and what does Microsoft do with its miracle baby? It tries to kill it by replacing the now iconic brand name "Surface" -- which implies a flat area that you can work on (i.e. the perfect metaphor) -- with the nebulous "Lumia" moniker that has no such branding chutzpah.

I mean, what the hell is a Lumia anyway? The closest thing that comes to mind is a crappy early 90’s coupe from Chevrolet, the "Lumina". Given the poor build quality of that wretched Detroit abomination (so much plastic!), Microsoft would do well to steer well clear anything with even a remote phonetic similarity.

Is this really happening? Are we really doomed to watch as Microsoft destroys its most iconic brand outside of Windows and Office? I’ve heard that the Lumia rebranding is just a rumor, or that it might be isolated to the company’s smaller-screened, Windows RT-based offerings (thus leaving the deliciously iconic Surface Pro untouched).

God, I hope that’s the case. Because I, for one, will not be buying anything from Microsoft called "Lumia".

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