MSN Messenger may be dead, but its legacy lives on in today’s social media platforms and digital marketing.

Just over a decade ago, the highly anticipated launch date of the X-Men 2 film underwent a sudden change at short notice. The film’s distributors, Fox España turned to MSN Messenger to fast track the awareness for the film, targeting the technological and communications savvy 13-35-year-old audience. It took just three short days for MSN Messenger to generate more than 17 million hits to the X-Men 2 website (you can download MSN’s case study here).

Windows Live Messenger (Previously MSN Messenger) in 2011

Windows Live Messenger (Previously MSN Messenger) playing catch-up-to-Facebook in 2011.

Fast forward a couple of years, and MSN Messenger is no longer with us – but not because instant messaging (IM) is dead, but because of MSN’s inability to integrate with new social media platforms. The growing popularity of Facebook meant that it became much more efficient for users to switch to the built-in Facebook Messenger, than fiddle with the MSN’s (rebranded as Windows Live Messenger’s) clunky integration. But at its peak, MSN Messenger became a chosen medium for big time marketing strategies, particularly for the youth market.

This was when distributors for the film Shrek 2 jumped on board, providing branded emoticons, window backgrounds, user tiles, and accessible trailer clips prior to the film’s release. Generating huge amounts of user interaction, the campaign contributed to the film’s success as one of the largest film releases in 2004. Sound like a familiar concept to you?  You’ve probably seen Facebook Messenger’s “Stickers”: big film franchises like Star Wars, Frozen, and The Hunger Games have hopped on board. It’s essential the same concept, except Facebook’s decided to monetise them, and make users pay to use some whilst still offering free versions. Ah, Facebook…

Even Nike played in this space to create an online football game tailored to MSN Messenger’s platform for users to play against their friends. The platform’s international popularity was the ultimate arena for Nike to generate brand awareness with its Olé football campaign running up to the 2004 UEFA European Championship. Messenger did it well, and our contemporary messenger services might have something to learn, here.Facebook might not still be popular for games, but there was a time when we were all obsessed with our crops on Farmville (if you don’t know what that is, be thankful…). Dreamworks and Universal are still playing in this arena, with Kung Fu Panda  and Jurassic World games still circulating around some News Feeds.

These massively successful campaigns only demonstrated the platform’s appeal to both consumer markets and brands, yet the old king still fell. Windows Live Messenger had lived through the early emergences of mobile apps but still couldn’t reclaim its throne. Instead, a new royal bloodline of messaging apps such as Whatsapp, Viber, WeChat and LINE were born.

When you look at the top messaging apps, they probably have just as many bells and whistles than the last version of Windows Live Messenger: emoticons, media sharing, audio and video call capabilities. But once again, it was Window Live’s inability to evolve with their user preferences. WhatsApp and Viber positioned themselves as substitutes for mobile SMS with little affinity for annoying ad banners, which attunes to the user’s desire for privacy. WeChat incorporated local sharing capabilities for audiences wanting to connect with the people around them. LINE, a popular app in Southeast Asia, and Snapchat utilises official user accounts for users to interact directly with brands and celebrities, and build more authentic and stronger bonds.

Both social networking websites and messaging apps are looking at more seamless ways to allow brands to capture audiences in their most natural state – without scaring off their current user bases. Unable to do just that, MSN Messenger was a major player that was left behind in the evolution of social media. But its legend lives on in our hearts and continues to inspire the new generation of social media platforms and marketing strategies. Here at Dando, we’re carefully tracking these changes in the digital marketing scope and you can be sure we’ll tell you about it right here. Or subscribe to our newsletter and have the news sent straight to your inbox – just sign up below!

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