Editor’s blog: Microsoft’s charm offensive

So Microsoft has called on Jerry Seinfeld to help make its image a little more cuddly. Its new TV ad featuring Seinfeld and Bill Gates in a shoe shop has just aired in the States and although Bill is not going to be getting an Emmy, it’s not bad. It’s the first time anyone will have associated with Microsoft with jokes.

For such a ubiquitous and successful company, Microsoft is terribly unloved. A billion people use PCs that run with Windows. The geeks that might admire its amazing achievements regard Microsoft as the Evil Empire and Gates as the prince of darkness. The punters get frustrated with Vista and wonder why Macs look so much cooler than PCs (which isn’t Microsoft’s fault). Love and a 95 per cent market share are a difficult mix.

This charm offensive presumably has a lot to do with Microsoft’s ongoing battle with arch-rival Google, as the pair size up for the Mother of All Browser wars. But even Google, which as we know never does anything remotely evil, is starting to discover that it’s not easy being the biggest beast in the jungle. Privacy campaigners are on its back about the amount of personal information it accumulates, leading to its latest climb-down yesterday (when it agreed to anonymise its personal data after nine months rather than 18).

Microsoft has always insisted in appealing to the head but never the heart. But its head of Windows consumer product marketing Brad Brooks has seen the light – ‘we have a sense of humour, we’re human too’. The fact that they are human – ‘if you prick us, do we not bleed’ – means the nasty jibes contained in Apple’s marketing campaign have wounded them. Who wants to be portrayed as slow-witted and boring?

So Microsoft had no choice but to take this path. But it’s going to be a long and expensive haul to change the perception of one of the biggest brands in the world.

In today’s bulletin:
Barratt wants to buy your house
OPEC spoils the party
Editor’s blog: Microsoft’s charm offensive
Cleantech innovators looking overseas
Keeping corporates in the pink

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    Definitely different to Microsoft’s usual approach, it seems they are trying to make Microsoft more personable, putting Bill at the forefront of this entertaining campaign that has no mention of technology, features or innovation. Quite a bold step, but one that needs to be taken. We want to be entertained – and the ad attempts to achieve that rather than so blatantly pushing the Microsoft brand and its products.

    However, I am not sure they have yet successfully tackled the negativity and geeky image that was amplified by Apple’s ‘I’m a Mac, I’m a PC’ campaign.

    Still some way to go.