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Branding and MArketing INSIGHTS

Skype: From Pioneer to Ghost

How did the most revolutionary tech app in the world become the most forgotten?

Spoiler's not about innovation, or at least not only.
Apr 9th, 2024
2 min read
Inception StoryBrand AcquisitionsLack of Brand PositioningInternal CompetitionClosing
The rise and fall of Skype
Launched in Estonia in 2003, Skype revolutionised voice calls by making them online and for free... something we give for granted now...and that's because of them!

Amassing millions of users from the first days of launch they become a household name incredibly fast.

The brand was synonymous with cutting-edge communication, breaking down global barriers, and the future of comms.

Skype exploded like a global bomb... or what we would call today a global viral sensation. I bet anyone, anywhere in the world can recognise its iconic ringtone for incoming calls...

But of that brand, now... there is very little left, and here's why:
As Skype quickly grew, the acquisition offers grew even faster... first, it was acquired by eBay which tried to forcefully integrate it into their marketplace, it didn't work out but they still made quite a profit by reselling it to Microsoft afew years later.

Both companies tried to violently integrate Skype into broader business models, to justify the price tag but this only resulted in diluting its pioneering brand purpose.

Basically...each new owner confused Skype's brand even further.
As the digital landscape evolved, Skype's failure to adapt its service offerings and experience in line with new technologies and changing consumer preferences contributed to its decline.

The app did not age well and the user experience was not in line with the global trends of simplicity and responsiveness.
To further complicate matters, Skype has struggled with its brand positioning from the beginning. This challenge grew even more significant as new competitors like WhatsApp and Zoom entered the market with more focused and user-friendly approaches.

Once seen as the revolutionary communication app, consumers struggled to pinpoint Skype's market positioning amidst these emerging alternatives.
As Skype's features became more complex, it lost ground to competitors that prioritised simplicity and ease of use.

This highlights the importance of a user-centric approach to product design and brand experience, ensuring that innovations enhance rather than complicate the user journey.
People want simple and relatable brands... unless you are Excel.
The final blow came from within its own walls, from its own family... Microsoft introduced Teams as a direct internal competitor, casting further doubt on Skype's future.

A weird business incest.

Despite having millions of users, including my father, this situation leaves Microsoft in a tricky position: they can't phase out Skype, yet they're hesitant to fully commit to its revival.

According to the latest available data, Skype has about 40 million daily users, a significant number but still quite behind the 300 million of Zoom and 270 million of Teams.

It's a sad story for a brand that I loved a lot about 10 years ago; now, this tale serves as a punchy reminder that innovation alone does not sustain a brand.

Continuous adaptation, clarity of brand positioning, a scalable brand strategy and a relentless focus on the user experience are simply not negotiable.
Brands, business, and tech need to travel at the same speed.
This should be the brief for every brand project, allign product, business and identity like Factory 39 did with the recent SiGMA rebranding.