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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lessons from Microsoft: When not to revitalize a brand

Saw the brilliant Apple tv spot (for the umpteenth time) in which "Bill" is apportioning dollars between funding Microsoft advertising and fixing Vista. Started to think about how Microsoft should respond to Apple's attack ads, separate from their multi-hundred million dollar "I'm A PC" campaign.

Vista-specific advertising isn't the answer, because the product is inferior. So why fuel the fire even further. In addition, why spend more money giving Apple any more air time. Also, what could Microsoft possibly say that doesn't make them look foolish – "we've finally fixed a product that we know really sucked; sorry to the millions of people who suffered through the Vista experience."

I think that Vista's reputation is so tarnished at this point that it doesn't pay to try to revitalize it. And how do you tell people, without acknowledging that you screwed up in the first place (along with consumers knowing full well that your apology isn't quite as sincere as when J&J masterfully handled their Tylenol scare).

How about evolving away from Vista. From a product with an awful reputation that's a drag on the corporate brand. Introduce (and fix) the next generation of operating system. It would certainly give Microsoft a cleaner slate. And a new platform to drive what can only be a more positive message. Give all those people who proudly stand up and say "I'm A PC" something to be proud of -- because they're most likely using PC's now only because they have to. Otherwise, why would they want to. Unless you're prone to lemming tendencies.

And when they do introduce the new operating system – look beyond advertising. Consider the strategic use of PR – to help impart a message that sounds strong enough to come from a leader but humble enough to acknowledge that you screwed up - and it won't happen again.

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