Microsoft’s (Lack of) Marketing Mojo

11 Feb ’06

Mathew Ingram and Paul Kedrosky have now both responded to Robert Scoble’s rant about blogger bias over Google’s hosted gmail, and as Kedrosky points out the ground seems to have been fully covered. What I’m left wondering, though, is mentioned in a point I made on Scoble’s blog and is also noted in Mathew’s post. After all of that marketing money, and the good work of Microsoft bloggers like Scoble, why doesn’t Microsoft have more marketing mojo? Mathew’s suggestions: Google is the cool upstart, and Microsoft, well, Microsoft isn’t.

That’s undoubtedly a large part of it, and some other forces are at work here too. I blogged recently about the democratization of advertising and of PR – the idea being the increasing power of the average voice in forming opinion. It seems to me that it’s becoming much easier to reach the multitudes with not a lot of money or overt sophistication, and that the Googles of the world have been particularly good at doing this – at using these channels to present themselves as being counter-cultural, hip, and ‘just like you‘ – whether they are like us or not. A case in point today is 3bubbles, a new chat tool for blogs that has lined up Michael Arrington and Stowe Boyd for sneak previews that will likely generate a lot of buzz. Except for Stowe’s interest as an advisor (which in a nod to the recent controversy over FON bloggers he quite extensively discloses), this was free advertising, and it was great positioning and a nice kick-off.

Additionally, the Microsoft brand, while very strong, is undoubtedly struggling under the weight of strongly-held consumer perceptions that, well, that may often not be that complimentary. Sure an OS is extraordinarily complex, sure Microsoft has done remarkable things in delivering empowerment to the everyman. Microsoft deserves great credit for having done great things. But when the blue screen strikes, or Outlook crashes (again???), or the featureset isn’t upgraded when it ought to be because, well, because there’s no competition left to fuel that sense of urgency, over time consumers start looking for something else to believe in. My sense is that this market is now ripe for evangelization by that something else. This is one of the reasons why I find the Apple – Intel deal and the development of OSX so intriguing now, and so full of possibility. But it also could be the lever that opens new markets for Google.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Stuart MacDonald February 11, 2006 at 20:46

Well, I could go on and on here. But the short story is that Microsoft doesn’t actually *do* marketing. Seriously. They are a spectacularly siloed outfit, where Marketing is essentially left holding the bag to “sell the damn thing” after the Planners and Dev teams have decided to ship it. It’s nasty Old Skool Marketing, where all the Marketers really get to is decide the ads. Far from advanced stuff, here. The rest is decided through a filter of internal politics and analysis/paralysis where Product always wins – and is usually far too late. Not that this is that different from most large companies, and not that MSFT hasn’t (in the past) created groundbreaking stuff, but worth remembering nonetheless.

— Stuart

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