Microsoft's $300 million makeover

Microsoft's $300 million makeover

Summary: Remember that $300 million consumer ad campaign that Microsoft awarded earlier this year? New specifics are emerging on how the ad agency that won the deal -- Crispin Porter + Bogusky -- is starting its task of rebranding Microsoft as a cool company.


Remember that $300 million consumer ad campaign that Microsoft awarded earlier this year?

New specifics are emerging on how the ad agency that won the deal -- Crispin Porter + Bogusky -- is starting its task of rebranding Microsoft as a cool company. Crispin Porter counts Burger King, Molson, Volkswagon and Virgin Atlantic among its high-flying clients.

The Crispin folks say they like a challenge. They have one on their hands with the Softies. From the Fast Company article on the ad agency:

"Microsoft's already problematic reputation in some circles -- as the soulless, power-hungry purveyor of lackluster products -- has suffered a series of self-inflicted wounds. It spent two years and $500 million on the media blitz around the long-delayed Windows Vista launch, only to see the January 2007 'Wow' campaign, which likened Microsoft's new operating system to Woodstock and the fall of the Berlin Wall, derided as arrogant and creatively void."

Can Microsoft ever be seen as hip as Apple? Seems like a tall order. The article continues:

Countering that (Microsoft) nebbishy, pocket-protected image now falls to Crispin. And Bogusky's team is revved up at the prospect. 'There was a time,' says Jeff Hicks, Crispin's CEO, 'when it was Avis against Hertz, Coke against Pepsi, Visa against American Express. I think Microsoft is at the epicenter of the great brand challenge of the next decade -- or millennium.'"

If you were helping Crispin spend that $300 million, what would you do to try to help Microsoft out of its Vista marketing morass? One blogger thinks Microsoft would be well-served to use Chairman Bill Gates, in spite of his imminent retirement from day-to-day duties at Microsoft, as the centerpiece of its campaign. Thoughts?

Topics: CXO, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • I'm For Gates

    It works for Apple. why not turn Apple's lovable, but inept buisiness type into Bill and fight fire with fire?
  • Gates???

    And how would that help counter the "nebbishy, pocket-protected" image? Mega-bad idea.
    • MS will become an media/entertainment company, guarantee it.

      They can't undo the damage they have done to the tech world, and to the image of the US.

      A few million quid of stolen money at an ad agency isn't going to convince the people that are worth convincing.

      Only global co-operation will do.
    • Yeah.

      Gates is not Jobs. Won't work. Gates is exactly what MS
      doesn't want to portray themselves as.
  • sell the company...

    there's no way, that M$ is getting a better name because of this "stunt"..

    They can take classes about ethics, morality etc.. all they like, but they're too far gone.
    Arnout Groen
  • Read "The Power of Focus"

    Steve Ballmer should read "The Power of Focus" so they improve their CORE products and services instead of trying to serve everything from consoles, through CRM systems, Surface to operating systems. Vista was the example of how you can spoil your best asset.
    • Amen, brother (or sister)...

      The farther away from its core, the chances of any company faltering increase significantly.

      Hold out a couple of grand to spend on Starbucks gift cards and t-shirts then take the rest to India, buy a city of programmers who don't think customers have endless resources (money and memory) to create a svelte and stable product(s), send copies to bloggers (along with the aforementioned GC's and T's), make a YouTube video or two and don't release 39 crippled sub-versions.

      Oh, and I only want 10% to direct the campaign. It's not much I know, but I'll scrimp and use coupons; I think the sacrifice is worth preserving the proud legacy of customer service that is MS!

      Has anybody bought a "big-ass" wall computer to go with their "big-ass" table computer, yet? How 'bout one of those sexy BROWN zunes? I don't think anyone loves their x-box toaster the way I do....

      I'd switch to OSX, but I live in Florida and those black mock turtlenecks are just too warm.
  • This can not be fixed with an ad campaign. You need to first replace the

    upper management. It will take a long time to make MS look like a cool company, and they first have to BE a cool company before you start the ad campaign.
    • And Monkey Boy...

      should be the first to go.

      And this is the CEO of a major corporation. NOT COOL!
    • RE: Microsoft's $300 million makeover


      Welcome back.
  • MS needs a sustained ad campaign ...

    ... for its overall and consumer products images. MS just can't do it for a while and then stop, and hope to counter Apple and its other competitors. Also MS' ads need to be very impactful. Apple's consumer ads are extremely impactful and has completely blunted Zune's uptake, and has propelled the iPhone to sales levels almost no one imagined possible. MS may be in for a sustained ad war against Apple in the consumer front - particularly when it releases Windows Mobile 7. If MS begins to win, it may throttle its ad campaign down a bit. Apple has shown however, that you boost your sales a lot in the consumer market using lots of ads - even when you don't have strong competitors around.
    P. Douglas
  • I don't envy the ad agency's job

    ALL marketing boils down to one
    thing: Positively differentiating
    yourself from competitors.

    MS's only competition in the US is

    The difference is that Apple is a
    computer that runs its own OS.
    Windows is an OS that runs on
    many different brands. If I want
    a Mac, I buy an Apple machine.

    If I buy a Windows machine, I get
    a Dell, HP, Gateway, etc.
    Windows is only the underlying
    OS. That makes it hard for MS to
    differentiate since there in no
    Microsoft brand computer.

    Apple has taken advantage of
    this in its advertising. You never
    hear the word Dell, or Gateway.
    Apple simply refers to 'PC" -
    differentiating itself from ALL
    other computers.

    MS's problem is exacerbated by
    the very fact of its near monopoly
    position. Vista would have to
    contain something unbelievable
    to get people to replace their
    present Windows machine. Vista
    does not offer that. It may or
    may not be "better" than XP, but
    it does not really have anything exceptionally new.

    Lastly, Vista does suffer a
    negative perception. The cause,
    or correctness, of that perception
    is irrelevant. Whether the
    negative perception is MS's fault,
    the fault of PC makers offering
    underpowered machines,
    peripheral makers making poor
    drivers, or bloatware loaded on
    OEM machines is irrelevant in the
    consumers' eye. Overcoming
    that perception will be very
    • Vista

      Vista looks to be Microsoft's Micro-Channel in a way.
  • RE: Microsoft's $300 million makeover

    I think Crispin is a great choice. They(MSFT)let the general perception of nerdy, uncool, and boring ridigity last way too long with the MAC verses PC ads that have been running...Look everyone wants to "date" the Mac Dude, but you don't marry him marry the tried and true PC guy. He shows up, and represents decent security(okay maybe).
  • Stop letting marketing-types dictate product strategy.

    If they really want to change their image, they should stop letting their marketing department dictate their product strategy. There is no way in hell the Vista fiasco was a product of the desires of software engineers. Programmers would NOT create an OS and then take tons of extra time to cripple it intentionally by choice. The multiple crippled SKU crap was obviously forced down their throats by marketing-types. If the programmers were left alone to create a great product, I'm certain we'd have a better and more current OS than we do.

    That's one BIG difference in consumer perception between Apple and Microsoft. Apple seems to let their smart people create the cool products they want to create. Microsoft seems to force their smart people to create whatever crap their marketers want to sell.
    • Baloney.

      Isn't it marketing's job know what the user wants, and provide inputs to the designers to come up with a user-pleasing product? That works just fine at Apple, where Steve Jobs, a first-class marketeer, influences the designs and ends up with first-class products.

      It seems to me that at Microsoft, it's more the nerdy tech types that are steering the ship, and the result is nerdy, complicated, difficult-to-use products. Leaving software designers to magically create wonderfulness by themselves is a pipe dream. You need a strong, visionary leader who knows what people like, and steers the designers to implement it. That isn't happening at Microsoft.
      • Really?

        [i]"It seems to me that at Microsoft, it's more the nerdy
        tech types that are steering the ship, and the result is
        nerdy, complicated, difficult-to-use products. "[/i]

        Was it the nerdy tech types that decided Vista needed to
        ship with 5 SKUs? I wouldn't think so.

        [i]"You need a strong, visionary leader who knows what
        people like, and steers the designers to implement it. That
        isn't happening at Microsoft."[/i]

        Agreed. Gates, Ballmer, etc. may well be good at
        negotiating deals, etc. but they are far from visionaries.
        Microsoft products are designed by committees, etc. For
        this reason, they're not particularly innovative. If Microsoft
        wants to be cool like Apple, they need to innovate and
        produce cool products like Apple. Microsoft needs to be
        first to market or really pioneer new territory rather than
        competing against last year's products. Microsoft needs a
        corporate culture that not only supports but promotes this

        It's almost comical that Microsoft believes their image can
        be changed by advertising alone. That's only part of the
        equation. No matter how great the advertising is, if the
        products (and company actions) are nothing to get excited
        about, no amount of advertising is going to change that.
        Throwing more money at their advertising budget alone
        won't help.
        • Does having umpteen SKUs...

          ...really affect the basic usability of each product? Doesn't seem like there's much of a connection there.

          But I agree with you that the multiple SKU thing was a boneheaded marketing decision because of the customer confusion it caused.
  • RE: Microsoft's $300 million makeover

    Microsoft doesn't need any help. They have been an industry leader for decades. The ad campaign will just help spread the word. They could advertise the Microsoft's products, the advantages of using them, the cost savings of using them, the security and stability of Microsoft products... there is no limit to what they can advertise. I just hope they don't get caught up in the mess of " and I'm a pc" and actually tell the truth instead of the lies we currently watch in those commercials.
    Loverock Davidson
    • 8.6 - Getting better, but what did your MS rep say at lunch?

      "the security and stability of Microsoft products"

      Absolutely hilarious !

      Basic Logic