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Cloud & Managed Services

Why the Name OneDrive is better than SkyDrive Anyway

by Dennis Junk
on January 27, 2014


Microsoft has just announced that they will be changing the name of their cloud storage platform from SkyDrive to OneDrive. The change comes in the wake of a court battle with a British satellite broadcaster called BSkyB. This past June, an English High Court sided with BSkyB, saying that SkyDrive infringed on the company's trademarked name. Microsoft agreed not to appeal the ruling in exchange for some time to come up with a new name. Now, nearly seven months later, Microsoft is beginning to reorient its branding around the name OneDrive.

At first blush, the change seems like a disaster from a marketing perspective. SkyDrive is already wildly popular, and one of the earliest comments on the blog announcing the new name referred to how easily SkyDrive rolls off the tongue. Now there will be a certain inevitable amount of confusion as users try to figure out if OneDrive is indeed the same product as SkyDrive. And Microsoft will have a bit steeper climb winning over people who were never sure what exactly SkyDrive was but still recognized the name.

Personally, though, I think a few months from now everyone’s going to be wondering why Microsoft ever went with SkyDrive in the first place. But then, I was never a fan of that name to begin with.

Aside from the mechanics of adjusting marketing campaigns (we at Aptera, for instance, now have to figure out what to call our upcoming webinar on what used to be called SkyDrive), the key challenge comes from what psychologists call the “mere-exposure effect.” In the 1960s, Polish researcher Robert Zajonc (last name rhymes with science) found that people developed a preference for Chinese characters they’d seen a few times before, believing they meant something more positive, over those they’d never seen at all—even though the characters didn’t really mean anything.

Familiarity has proved to be a big factor in influencing our preferences in countless other studies in the decades since Zajonc’s original experiments. And the principle underlies most of the branding strategies—“Get the name out there”—in business marketing. (It also works with music—payola plays such a big role in which songs are successful because it turns each song into a commercial for itself.)

The name SkyDrive probably rolls off the tongue now simply because we’ve gotten used to it. But that word has always had some significant drawbacks. Here’s why OneDrive is better:

OneDrive refers to the way the product is actually used. The idea behind the name SkyDrive was that it’s a storage drive in the cloud, and, well, CloudDrive is just too obvious. But this logic focuses on relationships between terms. SkyDrive was just too vague (though not as bad as Google Drive). OneDrive is better in this regard because it signals the one place to store all your stuff, the one storage drive accessible from all your devices. OneDrive refers to function rather than semantics, which makes it more intuitive.

OneDrive sounds very solid. Think about it: we used to store information on hard drives. Do we really want to save important data in the sky? To me, that conjures images of throwing sheaves of paper in the air and watching it rain down like confetti. OneDrive, on the other hand, connotes a single location, so it sounds like a better place to keep important stuff you don't want scattered to the winds.

OneDrive sounds much more secure. To be fair, the name SkyDrive was thought up long before the whole Edward Snowden, NSA controversy. But Microsoft could definitely stand getting more marketing mileage out of their stricter privacy policies. And OneDrive sounds, at least in principle, easier to secure than anything as up-in-the-air as a SkyDrive.

OneDrive works well with Xbox One. And users of the console now have the ability to record their play in Microsoft’s cloud storage drives.  

So, once we’ve all gone back and changed our blog posts and webinar titles, and once the mere-exposure effect has had a chance to work its magic, Microsoft is going to be left with a better name for its cloud storage. People who already have SkyDrive accounts won’t have any trouble adjusting to the new icon. And people who didn’t even know what it was will have a slightly easier time figuring it out.

What do you think of the new name? We’ve been joking around the office about other possible names. (MicDrive sounds like fast-food storage, MicroDrive has a capacity issue, etc.) We’d love to get your ideas in the comment section.

Digital Marketing Assessment
Dennis Junk
I'm Aptera's Content Strategist. I've been writing about tech and marketing for 5 years and have certifications from HubSpot and The Content Marketing Institute. A big science and literature geek, I taught college rhetoric and composition while I was still busy going to school for way too long, earning bachelor's degrees in anthropology and psychology, along with a master's in British and American literature. Look me up on LinkedIn.
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