Microsoft’s recent marketing campaigns

You have probably seen this elsewhere on the web, read me go on about it on Twitter, or something, but I thought I’d go through what I find to be some weird and provoking marketing strategies from Microsoft recently.

Not sure in which order these came, but let’s go through them:

tengrandisburiedhere.com

We’ll start with tengrandisburiedhere.com. Ignore the pathetic HTML validation errors, that it redirects you to a Microsoft URL and such, and just read the message.

You could only take part in the competition if you were using Internet Explorer 8, otherwise you weren’t eligible. Let’s skip over the sentiment that it’s completely against the open nature of the web, and a manner that have gotten them into trouble many times over the years, and instead focus on the fact that they do not only exclude people who want to use other web browsers, they also outright insult people on other operating system where Internet Explorer isn’t even an option (apparently all other major serious web browser vendors can offer a product for multiple platforms, but never mind…).

The text has now also been rewritten: the initial version mentioned Firefox about five times, that it’s “old”, that the user should dump it and that it’s bad for you. Probably someone got a serious scolding for that, but my guess it wasn’t because it dissed Firefox in an unprofessional way, but rather that they mentioned (i.e. acknowledged) another web browser’s existence at all.

And oh, if you wanted to find the treasure, with any web browser, please visit tengrandisburiedthere.com instead. :-)

“Get the facts”

Apparently worried about other web browsers becoming increasingly popular, Microsoft launched the “Get the facts” campaign with a, in my opinion, hilarious browser comparison chart.

Please read through those two web pages – the gist of it is that Internet Explorer is the best at everything. Interestingly enough, the text there has also changed, and the first version had some more cocky statements and claims. For instance, initially only IE was checked for having the best developer tools, and now Firefox is in there as well.

And I know, I know, it’s marketing, and their job is to sell the product. But some of the things are subjective, some are more or less outright lies, and what gets me most is that there’s nothing to back it up. Therefore I hope, probably in vain, that anyone who reads it will demand real tests, facts, testimonies from a large user group etc before they actually believe it.

Naturally, this campaign also has a counter-part in Get the facts STRAIGHT

Browser for the better

While the above are annoying, the one that really gets to me is Browser for the Better. It’s a campaign that will donate meals to the Feeding America charity organization, to help people from starving. BUT, it will only give any gift IF you download Internet Explorer 8.

And, as always, there are numerous campaigns, many of poor quality, to make people download your product. But I find this completely tasteless, to imply that other people will starve unless you download IE. What will they do next? Show ads on the TV with a gun to some child’s head, threatening to shoot them unless people download 10 000 copies of IE right now?

Microsoft, listen: if you have the means to contribute to charity, do so _ I appreciate and encourage companies and people helping others in need. But never ever draw a connection between your company’s success and the well-being of other human beings.

What is happening?

Lately, honestly, I have really tried to cut Microsoft some slack. They do some good things, their products are improving and they’re not the last one out with some features anymore. But, with with poor marketing strategies like this, and some even disgraceful, everything they have built up lately is soon gone again.

Posted in Press/Interviews,Technology,Web browsers |

17 Comments

  • What Microsoft fails to get that marketing these days, especially the one done on the internet, needs to be brutally honest. You need to able to look at yourself and feel good about what you're trying to sell both in terms of marketing messages and the product.

    First, make a good product. Second, be passionate and honest about it. No need to attack your competitors. Just make a better product.

  • kimblim says:

    I really don't see why people are so bothered about Microsoft's marketing campaigns – sure they are hilarious and untrue, but show me a marketing campaign that is 100% true?!?! Apple is not any better when it comes to this, but people somehow forget to blog or twitter about it..

  • mdmadph says:

    Aye, I don't blame Microsoft's coders — I blame the marketers, too.

    And they're still getting it wrong — I wouldn't give Firefox a checkmark for developer tools (since you largely have to install them separately) and I would give a checkmark to Chrome (since it has the webkit inspector).

    Also, I wouldn't give Chrome a checkmark for "customization" — what can you customize in Chrome? :P

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Jeroen,

    I completely agree. Anything incorrect will be called out right away, and by offering something good, you will earn credibility.

    kimblim,

    For me, it's not about regular marketing-style, it's about things being plainly incorrect; and, I find the last one outright offensive. And when it comes to Apple, at least I try to treat them just the same. Last example: Impossible to uninstall Safari 4 in Mac OS X – Apple pretty much follows suit with Microsoft.

    mdmadph,

    When it comes to Firefox and developer tools, any decent developer knows that Firebug is the best option out there. To me it's not about what's native (i.e. usually bulking up the web browser), it's what's easily available.

    Besides, Firebug is the only extensible developer tool as well, which has led to some fantastic things like YSlow.

    With Chrome: yeah, I don't know about that customization part either. :-)

  • Carl Camera says:

    The IE ad campaign has been a great success. This post and others on slashdot, digg, etc. have helped to promote IE8. Whether IE is better in category Z or not is not the goal of marketing — it's whether folks are talking about your product. MS has won hands-down in this campaign.

    And Robert, if you are against being plainly incorrect, shouldn't you change the title of your Safari article or at least update it to state that Windows 7 allows users to uninstall IE? ;-)

  • Ida says:

    I would really like to know how the marketing-people at Microsoft are thinking. Especially after seeing this video..

    O.M.G.I.G.P. – Internet Explorer 8

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Carl,

    Yes, well, some people believe that all PR is good PR. Personally, I don't. Marketing is naturally about getting a buzz around the product, but seeing that they changed the content in both cases, is to me an admittance that they were incorrect and out of line.

    I doubt that getting a good amount of attention, like Microsoft have now, for how incorrect and appalling the marketing is, is exclusively a good thing.

    And how did it work out with the Seinfeld ads? Not so good, did it? But still, lots of attention…

    Regarding the Safari article: if you read the article, you can see that it is stated that both Safari 4 and upgraded versions of Internet Explorer can be uninstalled in Windows.

    Doesn't really make sense in the title itself, does it? But as opposed to the Microsoft marketing campaign, the facts were in the actual content.

    Regarding Windows 7, which is just as irrelevant as Mac OS X Snow Leopard before it is officially released, it will offer you to uninstall IE (or come without it to begin with), but the dreaded IE rendering engine is still always present. Just as is WebKit with Mac OS X.

    My belief is that any web browser should come with the rendering engine separately bundled, to seamlessly offer multiple versions and uninstalling.

    Ida,

    That is truly dreadful! "Thanks" for sharing. :-)

  • mdm-adph says:

    Hey, I know that Firefox + Firebug is the best combination out there… :P

    Ugh — I'm not mentioning IE8 again for a while. Like Carl Camera says, this is all just playing in Microsoft's hands.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    mdmadph,

    I know, I know – I'm sorry, I'm just a bit worked up about this… :-)

    And while I don't really agree that this much bad PR is good for Microsoft, I admit that is better to spread knowledge and awareness of better products instead.

    Let's focus on the open web instead!

  • Steven Clark says:

    I agree Robert, all PR isn't good PR. Example:

    Were all those browser bugs in IE good PR for IE or Microsoft? Hey we talked about them a lot… but I doubt it increased their market share. If anything, our conversations detracted and inspired people to try another better browser.

    Its a little naive from a marketing perspective nowdays to assume that all conversation about you is beneficial. Customers talk between themselves, it's no longer a simple one way advertising model like the television. Your brand is whatever we, the consumer, believes it to be – not what the company believes it to be. If we believe the product is crap then in our world it's crap.

    How many people are talking about the product isn't the issue. Its bums on seats – how many people are converting, buying-into, adding to your revenue stream? The simple fact is that bad word of mouth is never going to help microsoft make money.

  • Steven Clark says:

    Further, Microsoft are not in the business of marketing to increase brand awareness. Who doesn't know what Microsoft is? We all know them. When was the last time someone came to you and said hey there's this company called Microsoft, have you heard of them?

    Anyway, my point being that unless Microsoft PR campaigns convert to return on investment in dollars then they fail. All marketing plans need to fit with the organisational goals of the company – thus making a profit.

    So I really fail to see how mentioning Microsoft Microsoft Microsoft is going to summon the devil incarnate. It's almost voodoo marketing at that point. :)

  • Steven Clark says:

    Now if you were a startup company with a killer little application and you got Dugg, even by some bitchy person who had trouble with the login… exposure gives you a possible ticket in the door.

    But no, not for Microsoft. OK will shut up now.

    BTW Robert, my blog and sites are closing this morning due to some death threats and a stalking issue. Thought I'd mention it. I'll have to find a new online identity I guess.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Steven,

    Absolutely, I think you make some very good points about marketing, and like Jeroen mentioned above, people expect more company honesty now – at least online.

    Also, I'm very sorry about your problems. You always know where to find me.

  • Steven Clark says:

    Ah I've decided to stay at StevenClark.com.au now… its just time for the lawyers etcetera to start doing their work. If they're dumb enough to start contacting clients or affecting my business there are pretty strong civil laws I can call on… and the restraining order… and for that matter the media. So am not that concerned now.

  • [...] Robert Nyman’s post yesterday on Microsoft’s recent marketing campaigns there was some discussion about their recent flopped strategies. Someone in the comments suggested [...]

  • Simon says:

    Totally agree with Jeroen. A good marketing strategy especially for IE is not to simply say how awesome your product is, because that's not going to work for them these days. Instead, they need to put videos that'll look "cool," videos people want to share, on YouTube, Vimeo, and AdWido. One of my friends, for example, shared with me this 3d rendered animation video short about ten minutes long that I ended up sharing with lots of people. This led to a number of people, including me, being curious about who made it and why. A video that drives this sort of curiosity will succeed these days, not some marketing campaign to say that IE is undoubtedly better than Firefox.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Steven,

    Great to hear!

    Simon,

    Absolutely!

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