Autotask made an intriguing move this week with its product branding. Solutions providers and software companies should take note. As Autotask prepared to launch an entry-level MSP solution, the company must have been tempted to call it "Autotask Lite." In my humble opinion that would have been a mistake. Here's why.

Generally speaking, "Lite" versions of software have tanked over the years. In the 1990s, Novell attempted to push beyond its established NetWare brand by launching "NetWare Lite," a peer-to-peer network operating system that bombed for multiple reasons. One key factor, I believe, was product branding. "Lite" suggests that a software product is inferior or weaker than a higher-end release. (The food and beverage industries have gotten around this because their lite products have a clear benefit -- fewer calories.)

Much like Novell a decade ago, Autotask faced a similar branding quandary this week -- but ultimately made the right call by positioning "Autotask Go!" as an entry-level product (it costs only $99 per month) and "Autotask Pro" as the higher-end release. "Go" inspires action, and suggests safe passage for solutions providers that want to give managed services a try. Had the product been branded "Autotask Lite," it would have immediately triggered questions about "what's missing" from the product.

The more I think about it, the more I realize Autotask's branding reminds me of the simple messaging coming out of OnForce these days. As you may know, OnForce offers an online market place for solutions providers. And the OnForce brand is a simple, green circle with the "on" button in it, suggesting that it's safe to proceed into the market place.

As solutions providers launch services of their own, they would be wise to study and emulate the Autotask and OnForce branding moves.