Microsoft’s at Scale Brand Fail (and how cool it could have been)

Have you noticed the growing “dead zone” around the Microsoft brand?

In a world where everyone’s a critic, I’ve tried to be nice about this decline. Microsoft was late in responding to the Internet, then to mobile. Its tough to play catch-up. I get that.

But if you look at even the basics of good advertising and marketing, one can wonder if Microsoft’s marketing failure to thrive is self imposed. Has Microsoft just stopped caring about their brand. Has aspiring to be a consumer brand become just too hard?

Earlier this year Microsoft fired their Creative Director, cut the central marketing team, and pushed product marketing budget out to the product groups.  What’s the fruit of this change? Last week they rolled out the biggest refresh to their corporate logo in 20 years, and it reminded me of the Gap’s logo debacle.  Both were irrelevant, and artless to the point of disregard.

The execution just feels like a brand mark made by committee. The blue box is for Windows, all cool and blue running behind everything…everything except for Xbox which is green because its Microsoft’s growing profitable division, while Office is red. Why is Office red? Someone had to be. And that leaves the yellow box, which is either for Microsoft Surface, or if it fails, a reminder to “proceed with caution”. This kind of making the mark a product map create inflexibilties, especially in a business where product evolution is constant.

In a previous post I shared the four attributes of good advertising, they should be: tangible, approachable, personal, and memorable. How would you say the new Microsoft brand does on these measures?

In the same week that the new brand launched, Microsoft also launched new product advertising aimed at back to school shoppers. This was what their reorganization was intended to improve. But, as they say in Congress,  what arrived was dead on arrival.

I’d wince too. Why?  Look at the copy “Start the year with presentation prowess” — which year? 2010?  That’s the name of the product. But we are approaching a new year, 2013. All this ad says to me is “buy our outdated product”.  Naming products by year is just asking for it – appearing to be outdated, that is. I don’t know what year Firefox, Photoshop, or WordPress do I use. Why should I care about the vintage of my Microsoft products?

But wait, it could have been different. Here’s an alternative brand treatment developed by Andrew Kim. Go see what he put together in three days, well before Microsoft’s brand launch. Look it over and consider which work you’d buy to turn around a flailing brand. Which has “mystery, romance and sensuality” (Saatchi & Saatchi’s touchstone), or Delight (from ISITE Design’s design ethos.) Or heck, which makes you excited to buy stuff.

Microsoft still does awesome work – it should aspire to show more of that in its marketing.

 Or, it will continue down the current road of too little, too late.

2 Responses to "Microsoft’s at Scale Brand Fail (and how cool it could have been)"

  • Christoffer Eldrich

    September 14, 2012

    I don’t wanna give up on Microsoft just yet. It is just a matter of some marketing mistakes, but I believe that they can still make it back. Besides, the battle is only over when you give up. It’s better late than never, right?

  • Dave Wieneke

    September 22, 2012

    The irony is that the Windows OS has never performed better — and that they’re finally starting to execute in mobile. But they seem so making huge corporate sales, and not having to delight end users, that they seem totally unable to get down to meet individual buyers at their point of consideration. They could be a better business if they could turn the corner and connect better with consumers.

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