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Top Partners Lukewarm in Embrace of Microsoft Partner Network Logos

Partners that have been slow to embrace the new Microsoft Partner Network logos and branding on their Web sites are in good company.

Even Microsoft's National System Integrators (NSIs), the high-profile group of U.S. partners, seem less than fully on board with the MPN logos and branding nearly a year and a half after Microsoft released them. An RCP review of NSI Web sites this month found that about a third of NSIs are still using outdated branding or messaging.

In November 2010, Microsoft formally released the Microsoft Partner Network logo for partners' use and began phasing in a new competency-based certification system. Rather than certifying partners at the company level, such as Microsoft Certified Partner and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, as it had done for many years, Microsoft began certifying partners as silver or gold in specific competencies. Partners had a year to make the transition, and all references to Microsoft Certified Partner or Microsoft Gold Certified Partner should have been gone from partners' collateral and Web sites in November 2011.

Microsoft surfaced the issue in February, when Eric Ligman, the director or Partner Experience for Microsoft, wrote a blog post warning partners they needed to get the old Certified logos off their Web sites.

Karl Noakes, general manager of Microsoft Worldwide Partner Strategy and Programs, assured RCP that there was no crackdown and that Microsoft didn't view the issue as a particular problem.

But the mini-flap highlights that the transition is happening more slowly than Microsoft may have hoped.

Noakes declined to estimate how many of Microsoft's tens of thousands of formerly Certified or Gold Certified partners were still using old logos. "There's no easy way to [quantify] that," he rightly noted.

Still, a look at the NSIs gives a good indication. NSIs generally have their own dedicated national Partner Account Manager, in many cases among other regional PAMs, and frequent contact with Microsoft at many levels. In other words, they are heavily engaged and have a lot of resources dedicated to the Microsoft relationship. Whatever the percentage of NSIs still using old logos, the percentage among the broader Microsoft population is likely much, much higher.

Of the 33 NSIs listed in RCP's special report earlier this month, 12 were still sporting old logos or descriptions dating from the old Microsoft Partner Program.

We're not out to embarrass any particular partners; we're just making a point about relative adoption of the logos and branding, so we won't name names. Here's how the old logos and descriptions shook out.

  • Four of the companies had the old Microsoft Gold Certified Partner logos splashed on their homepage.

  • Three NSIs used old Microsoft Gold Certified Partner logos in a list of vendor partners or on another secondary Web page.

  • Another three companies had a mix of new logos with an old logo tucked away somewhere on the page or with text describing the company's "Gold Certified" status. One of those companies had the sticky situation of having had a Partner of the Year badge built around the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner branding, making it difficult to remove that logo without de-emphasizing the accomplishment.

  • Two other NSIs had outdated descriptions and no Microsoft logos at all.

On the flip side, 12 of the NSI partners embraced the new logos on their Web sites, with several featuring the new logos prominently on their homepages (three of those are also counted above among companies using a mix of new and old logos). A few other NSIs took the logo styling and altered it to fit the styles of their homepages -- for example, making the MPN logo monochrome so as not to clash with the NSI's own color palette.

The balance of the NSIs are either so focused on one Microsoft product or another that they use those product logos rather than MPN logos, or their sites appear aimed at establishing their own branding or broad expertise to the extent that they don't use Microsoft branding at all.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 09, 2012


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