Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

All April Fool's Joking Aside, Omuk Sounds Better Than Kumo!

Microsoft made a funny today with a fake internal memo and screenshot of changes to its search product, which is currently called Kumo.

The software giant has jokingly renamed it Omuk, which is Kumo spelled backwards.

No kidding, but BoomTown likes it better!

As I wrote about Kumo and Microsoft (MSFT) efforts to compete better with archrival Google (GOOG) in early March:

“Sources at Microsoft said the company has not yet decided whether it will keep the Kumo name, which sounds a little too much like that crazy dog from the Stephen King novel.”

Thus, I was heartened when I obtained this internal memo, sent suspiciously on April Fool’s Day.

The Bernie Madoff and “muk it” jokes are actually funny.

Here’s the screenshot (click on it to make it larger) and the memo:


From: Brian MacDonald
Sent: Wednesday, April 01, 2009 5:16 AM
To: Search FTE’s
Subject: Yesterday’s brand leak

Based on all the mail I have been getting on the topic, I imagine most people have seen the blog posts from late yesterday leaking the new brand. Marketing has asked me to share some of the “why” behind the final brand decision, but everyone should know that we are still officially keeping a “no comment” stance on the leak. We shouldn’t be discussing the new brand name externally until after the official launch.

In picking the new brand, marketing tried to have a brand that resonated with power users. We want to increase our fanbase amongst the heaviest searchers and want to pick a brand that will support that. Google had the scientific/math term kind of savvy user appeal and we wanted something akin to that. One of the real clever product names of all time was the operating system Gnu, which stood for Gnu’s Not Unix, with the G not really standing for anything. Kind of quirky and kind of fun.

So this same kind of thinking was behind the brand name. So it was Kumo after all, but with a twist. Kumo was just our new brand spelled backwards. The new brand “Omuk” stands, gnu-like, for “Omuk means unlimited knowledge.” The phrase “unlimited knowledge” really resonated with focus groups as something they most wanted to achieve with a search engine. It is rare that you can get the brand promise so neatly tied directly to the brand name. It also ties in corporate wide with the Unlimited Potential group etc.

There is a lot of riffs marketing can do in advertising with “unlimited knowledge.” If you recall the Dreyer’s Ice Cream ads where they brought in people who said they were abducted by aliens etc. and then did the tagline “unbelievable product from an unbelievable spokesperson” etc., we can do something similar. For example, tying Bernie Madoff, Unlimited Chutzpah with Omuk, Unlimited Knowledge. That type of thing.

In testing, Omuk scored very high on attributes like “empowering”, “organized” and “warm/fuzzy.” Another key attribute was ease of spelling and Omuk did very well. There was some concerns that people might spell it ohmuk or omuck but that didn’t happen.

The final key feature for the brand was verbability. Here marketing is planning to go with a little ingenuity and drop the o and just push “muk it.” In ads they will get playful and have the actors talk about the joys of accessing unlimited knowledge by just “muking around”, etc. The hope is to generate a lot of word-of-mouth and free impressions on the internet the way that the very successful Bill and Jerry commercials did for Windows.

Below is a sample homepage screenshot with the new brand. Really looks great. This also has the latest thinking on default “scopes.”


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— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald