2006 was not a banner year for Microsoft by any means. Between delays of the new operating system (Vista) launching after the holiday season, to the launch of "Live Search", to the year end major snafu of sending laptops to bloggers, Microsoft has some heavy PR, Marketing and Branding issues on its hands. 2007 is going to be a year to watch and see how Microsoft deals with not being a leader in several areas that it tried to wade into.
Microsoft Marketing, Branding & PR Issues
- Live Search vs. MSN Search - Microsoft has got some serious issues here. Do "normal" people even know what "Live Search" is? In the summer when Live Search was launched it perplexed me to no end. Microsoft was already lagging behind Google and Yahoo in search. Now add in the confusion between Live Search and MSN Search, its only managed pushed them further behind. Advice: Mr. Berkowitz please pick a name/brand, stick behind that brand and MARKET the darn thing to the "normal" people.
- Zune - Where to go with this one, so many levels, so many mis-steps. I don't even know if anything can save this brand/product. Perhaps they should just let this product slip silently into the netherland? Why with product advertisements that feature creepy bugs and skulls - it's a wonder they even sell at all with a campaign like that. Advice: Get a new advertising campaign, find customer evangelists and let them promote the product, and put a stop to incidents where stores are using Zune marketing pieces to promote iPods.
- "Bribing Bloggers" - Of course this wasn't the intent of the campaign to promote the launch of Vista, but it is how it has shaken out. Pile on top, that it was Edelman who handled this (remember the Walmart Flogging Fiasco) campaign and it just made things worse. In all honesty, it wasn't a bad idea at all, just how it was all handled did it in. The lack of explanation, lack of disclosure on Edelman, Microsoft and don't forget AMD and Acer, and then the horrible indecision of whether or not the bloggers were allowed to keep the laptops - killed this beyond death. Advice: Really think before engaging the blogosphere with projects like this. Giving laptops to the likes of Gizmodo, is one thing, but other bloggers should be filled in entirely on the who, what, when, where, why and how before they receive "free gifts" like they were sent.
That's just the three biggest issues that come to my mind - there are others that just compound onto this problems. Their search index is easy to game/spam, and security issues with Vista are just a few additional issues that come to mind. However, not all is grimstone and pestilence at Redmond! Microsoft actually has been doing somethings right, perhaps if they took lessons from their successes, and broadened them it could help them turn things around in 2007.
What Microsoft Does Right
- Microsoft AdCenter - For a lot of marketers, AdCenter is where they get the best conversions. If Microsoft could only work out the small kinks (reporting issues, etc.), they could have a really great product here. They figured out how to give merchants what they want, now if they could only give it to them reliably, they'd have more "great press" about AdCenter. Highlighting their advertisers' conversions rates wouldn't be a bad marketing idea either.
- XBox - I don't game, I don't own any consoles, however I have friends who are gamers and they tell me, along with other prominent industry professionals that the XBox is a great gaming console. The online gaming features are second to none and that in this Microsoft "Got it Right." Engage the captive audience and create customer evangelists - word of mouth in the gaming industry is gold, just look at what its done for the Wii.
- Microsoft adCenter Labs - This little hidden treasure isn't something a lot of folks know about, and perhaps they should. Microsoft is not known for sharing or giving a lot of things to webmasters, but with adCenter Labs things are different. Marketers can find a lot of different, informative and pretty neat tools to help with PPC & Contextual Ads and even Behavioral Targeting. If Microsoft can utilize this as a point to really engage their merchants and even just engage webmasters as a whole (like Google's webmaster central) they might get a little more respect in the search arena.
How Microsoft pushes forward is totally up to them, but perhaps they should really take a look at what they are doing right and why they are succeeding. Of course it goes without question, they need to look at their mistakes and learn from them (please please please, get rid of the creepy bugs on the Zune ads!). 2007 marks a new year for everyone - hopefully Microsoft can make it a turnaround year for themselves.