Microsoft and TikTok
Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
4 August 2020
What would Microsoft even do with TikTok?
I’ll admit I knew little about TikTok, other than it’s Chinese-owned and President Trump wants to ban it unless a US company owns a stake in it. Its description says it’s basically karaoke for the digital age.
I guess I’m not part of that target market.
But a US company may buy a stake in it as Microsoft engages in talks to acquire the rights to TikTok in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. And it could happen as the rights are valued at around $50 billion and investors gave Microsoft an $80 billion market cap on Friday.
Does it makes sense? Does the brand of Microsoft have permission to own TikTok, whether it’s a good investment or not? (On that note, I wonder. Tech is full of pretenders to Instagram and SnapChat who fail. Remember Vine?)
“As a brand, Microsoft has often been the opposite of Apple. While that tech company favors simplicity, Microsoft delights in complication. I fear an acquisition of TikTok will, uh, further complicate its brand meaning.”
TikTok will further muddle Microsoft’s brand
But let’s pretend TikTok is a good investment from a financial standpoint for Microsoft. The Seattle-based company has become more business-focused in its approach, acquiring LinkedIn for $26 billion four years ago.
To some, that made some sense primarily because Microsoft didn’t rebrand it. Most LinkedIn users aren’t even aware Microsoft owns it. But why did Microsoft even buy it then? What’s the value of acquiring LinkedIn if it wasn’t going to help the parent brand?
Microsoft may adopt a similar strategy with TikTok, only marking a new strategy into the consumer market. Basically, Microsoft is widening the scope of its portfolio like any smart investor should.
But it’s also typical Microsoft because it’s the software company trying to be everything to everybody. Brand and brand permission doesn’t work that way. You must put a stake in the ground and say who you are for and not for. Otherwise, you don’t present yourself as a true, differentiating choice. You’re just a blob of empty meaning.
Facebook, Google or a few other tech companies could have brand permission to own TikTok, because, for example, the Facebook brand means connection. What does Microsoft mean?
As a brand, Microsoft has often been the opposite of Apple. While that tech company favors simplicity, Microsoft delights in complication. I fear an acquisition of TikTok will, uh, further complicate its brand meaning.
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