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September 12, 2008
Yup, a lot of comments. Which is part of the point.
With the help of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Microsoft is in the process of reframing the discussion about Microsoft. It is building a new persona.
A persona isn't established by one commercial. Critics of the Gates/Seinfeld program are missing the point. After all, "Seinfeld" the TV show didn't become a lasting cultural force in the United States after a few episodes.
Microsoft is off to a good start with this new persona-building. But here's the real challenge: for Microsoft to have its products, processes and people authentically reflect the smart-ironic nerd concept it has successfully gotten people to talk about this week. Like "Seinfeld," that'll take years, too.
Other blogs that reference Microsoft's reframing:
Great perspective. After viewing the first episode of this series, I had three reactions; Microsoft really held CP+B back / CP+B has finally lost their "cool" / Don't overreact, just wait to see where it goes from here.
Just like Apple's present campaign, this series is all about contrast. Rather than put the products head to head (which would fail horribly) this is Bill vs. Steve. The question CP+B is positioning is this, "would Joe America rather have a beer with Steve or Bill?"
But shouldn't changes to the products, processes and people come BEFORE the smart-ironic promotion? I think that's why people find this campaign so bizarre. Aside from the ads, it's still the same old Microsoft right now. This would have worked much better if they had built the buzz first by actually changing the culture, and then unleashed the mass marketing effort.
I aboslutely love these. They are really making Bill Gates seem approachable. Here are my concerns:
1. Doesn't matter what they say or do because Vista stinks? Branding only works when things are in sync. Saying one thing and delivering another are two very different things.
2. Microsoft's employees couldnt tell you what their brand identity was if it hit them over the head. Where are these spots going as far as a sustainable brand identity. When I think Apple I think "creative".
If they can solve some of these issues they'll be fine.
Colin and Scott, you are both dead on with the way it should be.
But Microsoft sells commodities not goods.
This pitch has nothing to do with the product, it's just going for the heart to make people think good thoughts about Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld and, therefore, Microsoft too.
It's cheating, but it will work.
Colin -- That's a great question. Given Microsoft's size, internal change could take decades.
I'm not privy to MS's strategic thinking about this, but the persona-building could well become the catalyst for internal change.
Kahuna -- You're right. MS is the GE of software. They have their fingers in many pies.
At the risk of sounding like the only Apple person to post on this thread (actually, I use both a PC and a Mac)...
I'm one of the critics of this new "series." These first two "episodes" are confusing, pointless and puzzling. Worse, they aren't even interesting. Unfortunately, I don't see anything redeeming about them - completely unbuzzworthy, no real message (overt, subtle or subliminal) and no effect, except to laugh about how Microsoft probably wasted enough $$$ on the campaign to rebuild the entire Gulf Coast after Hurricane Ike.
A key question for me would also be - does MS employees get this? and are they more motivated to pull MS in a new direction. Or are they as confused as the critics.
It would be really interesting to know what MS was doing internally to "connect with real people".
Great post, Ben!
Authenticity IS key I think because this will only work a little while--until people re-encounter something clumsy and hard to fix with Microsoft again. It's interesting, I think the reason the Apple commercials are working well is that it honestly, authentically everything Mac users have told me over the years. The commercials are funny because they're most probably true.
Regarding connecting with "real people", MS also has a commercial about their "Mohave" project where they have people test the "Mohave" environment and people talk about how great it is, etc . . .and at the end they reveal it's really just Vista. that the Vista badmouthing is more about hype than about reality. I think THAT commercial and project is much more interesting than the Bill/Jerry commercials . . .but at the end of the day, I still have problems with Vista not playing nice with others and so I still don't believe the commercials . . .
Bill Gates does a terrible robot.
OK, I still don't get the commercial and my Vista is still a problem. From what I've read here, hopefully, after a few more installments, I should get it. We'll see.
Initially I thought the first ad was such a waste, but after seeing the second ad I started to see the brilliance of the idea. Having worked on Microsoft for the last four years, I know that consumers love to hate Microsoft.
My take on the ads are that Microsoft is trying to understand their consumers more deeply. Getting Jerry and Bill to travel the US to understand how families/consumers use Windows. They are trying to show they are listen to consumers. I just hope that Microsoft do something with the learnings rather than ignore what they are seeing.
I think there are a few opportunities online that should be explored and fingers crossed a better online extension is coming. I have listed a handful of extensions I think should happen on my blog: http://dominiquehind.wordpress.com/2008/09/14/missed-opportunity-for-microsofts-new-ads-jerry-seinfield-bill-gates/
I hope CP+B gets businesses involved and also Microsoft's G7, priority countries like Australia, UK, Europe, Asia, etc.
I tend to see Microsoft as a charmless dull company, whose products are about as appealing as hot water heaters or brake pads. You use them, but don't care much about them one way or the other.
I can't see how these commercials will add any cool to the Microsoft brand. And besides, 95% of computer users end up with their products any way, sort of by default. Will these commercials make people LIKE the products any more? Doubtful.
The first time I saw the ad, I thought it was a commercial for American Express. I was expecting Bill to not have any money and Jerry was going to pull out his card and pay for his shoes.
I certainly understand a company trying to re-frame itself - shifting negative perceptions by going a totally different direction. I'm not sure of the use of television ads for that purpose - especially when Microsoft's chief competitor is so successful with such simplicity.
Microsoft's problems are much deeper than public opinion - it's their products. It would be a much easier task to re-frame if the perceptions were based on misconceptions, but the perceptions are valid which is what Apple has capitalized on.
I'm sad to see the campaign abruptly end. I'd love to know what CP+B's full execution had in store.
However, order has been restored to the universe. Though it was accomplished accidentally, Microsoft has reconnected the presentation with their true persona: Big Budget/Big Hype/Big Fail.
The part that really confuses me is that Bill just retired from the company. Why is he now in a new campaign? That, to me, is extremely bizarre.
Exactly! Microsoft itself is no different than it was before the ads (and there doesn't seem to be any plans in the future to be any different). So basically they just spent millions of dollars showing how they wish they were as "hip" as Apple.