October 2, 2007
marketing: the cultral fault line inside microsoft?
[Good party. Impressive backdrop.]
Just got back from a massive Microsoft party at the the Musee de l'Homme.
I have to get up early tomorrow. Big day at Imagination 07. Steve Ballmer is giving the keynote.
This conference is built around the folk who think of Microsoft in terms of "media", as opposed to software. Which, as a former advertising hack, I find interesting.
A line I have used many times before, I found myself using quite a lot today: "Google is just one algorithm away from Oblivion."
I handed out A LOT of Blue Monster business cards at the event. Though not everybody there had heard of the Blue Monster, it seemed the people who did were really enthused and passionate about it.
The more I get into this conversation, the more I'm starting to think that somehow I managed stumble upon this cultural fault line inside Microsoft, about what the company actually means to people, and where "the conversation" should be heading. One Microsoftee confided in me, "Our products are fine. Our marketing is the weak link, though."
I would agree. Which is why I'm fond of saying, the future of Microsoft lies squarely in how they talk to people. That's me thinking as a marketer, a "culturalist", not as a techie.
i.e. If "markets are conversations", then yeah, how you talk to people is the DNA of marketing.
N.B. Unlike some of the stuff going on in Redmond, none of this is rocket science. Which may explain why Redmond seems to have so much trouble grasping this.
Posted by hugh macleod at October 2, 2007 12:18 AM
Microsoft's 'marketing is weak' schtick is a well known industry issue that's been going on for years. Check out the chaotic rebranding around the Live stuff today.
Microsoft has how much UK/EU/US market share in the ad world and they think a party is going to fix it? You often say you'd not bet against Microsoft's millions or market share elsewhere.
Same goes the other way when you look at the world through Google's eyes. They're a minnow in comparison but Microsoft just can't get the buzz back. Nothing to do with conversations, there are plenty of those. Just not the conversations Microsoft wants.
Hugh, It's a great point to remember when you see 1.4 billion written off by ebay. They never understood how to converse with Skypers and help them create value. Today, I put the problem down to marketing on why Niklas and co didn't get anywhere close to their earnout.
This comment you heard; our marketing is the weak link. I think we will hear that more and more from companies. Companies that grew up with a Brand 1.0 mindset and have no idea that Brand 2.0 is a radically different operating system. While focused in control they forget that all media is social and two way.
The current crop of traditional brand marketers are not equipped to make the transition. Worse the metrics used internally won't reward them even if they know how. Most of these companies still have firewalls up that block the conversation.
The only real exception I'd take is that it isn't how they talk.. it is how they listen. listen and respond. I think ultimately we have to be careful with the talk word. To give a talk remains one way. At least in a microsoft world.
Similarly in an eBay world... they could only talk and they destroyed the conversations that were the real lifeblood and engine for a vibrant new brand. Today Skype is aging far faster than it should.
Hugh, it would be a mistake to think that its only a marketing issue, and I use the word marketing advisedly, re pricing, packaging as well as promotion. Having jumped to Linux after being on DOS and Windows forever, I see some key distinctions in how the two systems work. I think there are lessons there for Microsoft.
"Google is just one algorithm away from Oblivion."
You think so?
Stuart makes a great point about listening. This is something SAP has been working on for 4 years and it is paying off big time.
They now have the smarts to go into a whole new market Microsoft can only dream about. They've accumulated a shed load of skill plus 900,000 developers on one network and 200,000 business process experts on another. That's awesome.
It's equipped them to make their recent on-demand play stick. Even so, they've not done as good a job explaining it as they could. That's not an impediment because they're always willing to pick up the phone and listen, or meet up with key influencers.
And for pure kudos, how many CEOs - like Ballmer - are prepared to engage directly with the blog community? I can name one: Henning Kagermann, CEO of SAP plus his deputy Leo Apotheker.
Those are the lessons Microsoft should be drawing upon IMO. Forget bold statements and one liners. Save those for the ad-men.
Give the community substance and lsten for the feedback.
Remarkable products get people conversing about you. As long as MSFT products are perceived as average/normal/unremarkable, nobody will get excited over the new products.
The product is the key building block of "marketing" so if they are self-satisfied that their products are merely "fine" and that that is good enough, then what they call marketing will not be enough.
> "Our products are fine. Our marketing is the weak link, though."
> I would agree.
I might agree with you about Microsoft's products being fine if I hadn't personally had more blue screens of death than I can remember, a red-ringed Xbox 360, three short-lived Microsoft mice, standards-deficient version of Internet Explorer after standards-deficient version of Internet Explorer (now with a horrible interface too), the driver and system resource nightmare that is Windows Vista, various Windows installation nightmares (e.g., the fact that the Windows XP installer is too stupid to read drivers from a secondary CD/DVD drive or even to back up to install a missed hard drive controller driver instead of forcing the user to quit completely and restart), pre-installed Microsoft Office trial crapware with an uninstaller that refuses to simply uninstall the software until I register and obtain a trial serial number, and on and on and on. Those are just off the top of my head.
If you think Microsoft products are fine and that marketing is the weak link, I think you are in a state of market-blind delusion because as a consumer, Microsoft's marketing is reaching me and I am hearing the messages about how Microsoft products can empower me to do great things or to connect with other people or simply to have fun, but I do not *TRUST* those messages—I don't *BELIEVE* those messages—because my personal experiences have shown that Microsoft's products are garbage, garbage, garbage.
"Google is just one algorithm away from Oblivion."
Everytime I see the capitalised O, it turns that from "Google head to obscurity" into "Google is headed to the video games market".
Microsoft products are fine. Just about fine, not awesome. Isn't that why you use an Apple, Hugh?
I've read many times around here - 'make products worth talking about'. Well, we do talk about Microsoft products, but Brian has very well summarised what those conversations are like.
Plus, your doomsday theory for Google sounds a bit like global warming :P
Well, I used to be Microsoft's biggest fan
Not compatible with any of my hardware
and holy crap, what the H*** did they do to Excel?
Accounting is usually responsible for approving IT spends. I don't know an accountant alive that likes that version.
So do I think they only have a marketing problem?
I'm holding onto my older versions of Excel for dear life.
And I'm not approving any upgrades to Vista.
Don't let the Blue Monster cloud your vision. Saying that Google is one algorithm away from oblivion has a nice ring to it, and I'm sure it is a big hit with the Microsoft koolaid drinking crowd you are hanging with.
I don't claim to be any expert marketer of technology or have a crystal ball to predict the future. I just know that other than the OS on this computer, Microsoft and I don't really have a relationship. I've shifted all of my work to Google online products. That's not an algorithm thing. It's an ease of use thing. I have MS office on the same laptop and still prefer Google online documents. Just like music, Microsoft is missing out again.
Most of the above commenters are dead on. A productive market conversation is more than discussing what color of lipstick you'd like on that pig.
The product features for MS Office -- are they driven by customer demand, or by some programmers new bell-and-whistle? Faster hardware should make the old products perform better, so instead of faster products we get un-necessary features that clutter up a previously useful application. There's the market disconnect. Find a way to give me what I need (even if I don't know yet that I need it) not what you want me to have.
Paris is kind of surreal isn't it. I can understand anybody getting getting caught up in it.
If the average Microsoftee thinks their products are just fine, and that the company is "only" suffering from marketing problems, it's all the better news for Apple. It seems they hand out the Kool-Aid at the door there, eh?
"Everyone's jealous of us, THAT'S why people hate us." Uh, no. People hate you because you pass off utter shite as "software" and try to bully open communities into following you into your abyssal understanding of what's The Right Thing(TM) in today's technology landscape.
Microsoft doesn't have an image problem. They have an image *symptom*, caused by their real problem: their complete lack of useful and innovative contributions to the community. And people are starting to wake up and see that, especially when they're confronted with the truly useful and pleasing products coming out of Cupertino.
Just another case of MS trying to control the minds of the public in spite of overwhelming evidence against them.
"If you think Microsoft products are fine and that marketing is the weak link, I think you are in a state of market-blind delusion because as a consumer, Microsoft's marketing is reaching me and I am hearing the messages about how Microsoft products can empower me to do great things or to connect with other people or simply to have fun, but I do not *TRUST* those messages—I don't *BELIEVE* those messages—because my personal experiences have shown that Microsoft's products are garbage, garbage, garbage."
What he said and with extra added emphasis. Hugh, how many Microsoft products are you using at the moment? Perhaps you are happy with them, lucky you.
But I make no secret of my desire to migrate to another OS system before I am forced to 'upgrade' to Vista. I have already happily switched to OpenOffice. http://www.mediainfluencer.net/2007/07/the-not-so-open-open-standard/
... and there is simply no way I am going to be using any MS products as soon as I work out how to migrate to Ubuntu or perhaps even get a Mac.
No amount of marketing can sway my opinion about products that I had been forced to use for years and now there are alternatives. But I can't even think of where I would see MS marketing... online? I think not, what with Firefox adblocker. :-)
Since you're rubbing elbows with the Blue Monster, maybe you could ask him who talked him into slowing computers to a crawl by loading Vista with DRM and those bizarre and tortuous security protocols.
I know two people who have bought new computers lately. One, the president of my company, bought a Vista equipped computer for home use. As a result, our company will hang on to our old computers as long as possible and then consider switching to Linux. True, it's only one small company, but I imagine this same scene is being played out everywhere.
Another friend bought a Linux machine for multi-media. He raves about the speed he gets from it because of the reduced clutter in the operating system.
Is marketing a conversation? Who the hell was the Blue Monster listening to when he dreamed up Vista?