Can Microsoft pull off being the “Cool Brand”?

Microsoft-cool

2012 was one of the most defining years in Microsoft’s history. The launch of Windows 8 was a bold and striking change for the software giant. Microsoft was late to the game, but they came in swinging hard. Windows 8 is an incredible and stark change to the mobile strategy from their competitors.

Where other companies such as Google and Apple choose to take their mobile operating systems and adopt them to work on bigger screens, Microsoft choose to take an operating system designed for bigger screens and adopt it for smaller screens. This allowed for tablets to be redefined again. Instead of just giving your phone a bigger screen, you have a device that is a truly capable machine, that you can get real legitimate work done on. Windows 8 is a game changer. It is a testament to a company that could not just follow the lead, but jump ahead and do something bold and different. Windows 8 is a long term investment in the future of computing and symbolic of a company that has changed its entire mantra.

With this bold strategy to leap far ahead of the pack, Microsoft also needed to redefine its own personal image. Microsoft has long been seen as a symbol of the corporate bureaucracy in technology. Microsoft launched itself into redefine the image that for years it has done little with. So what is this image that they are inventing for themselves?

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History shows to us that the technology that seems cool and/or hip is the one that sells. Take Apple for example, for years having Macs was seen as being part of the cool group. Owning an iPod was a must for your music needs because it was cool, even if other music players were often vastly superior to the iPod (I always touted Zune over iPods for their vastly superior music playing ability). The iPod was always the bestselling device.

Now we see Microsoft touting and advertising their products along ‘cool and hip’ icons. Their TV commercials are filled with music and young people. Successful technology products always find homes with younger generations first.

Today, we find that young people are infatuated with Microsoft’s new products. Kids want Windows Phones and Surfaces, because they’re ‘cool’ and they are not the iPads that their parents are using. Xbox has long been the dominate gaming console and the brand has long been associated with ‘cool’ and Microsoft is using it to all its potential in rebranding their entire company.

Lately we have been hearing a lot of doom and gloom about Microsoft’s future. It seems like every day, a new article is published about how Microsoft and the PC Industry are doomed. That people are not buying new PCs and are holding onto the one’s that they already have.

Now the prospects of PC manufacturers are definitely in question, there is little doubt about that, they have a lot of changing to with their product lines and strategies in order to evolve with the market, but Microsoft is not going anywhere. They are changing and taking the steps necessary to evolve with the market.

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So let’s look at some of these changes:

  1. They are creating an ecosystem that is vastly different from the competition, and is ‘alive,’ vibrant and engaging, that appeals to younger audiences.
  2. They associate their brand with ‘cool’ objects like high profile musicians such as the recent Train      performance for the grand opening of their store in Salt Lake City, Utah.
  3. They take time to donate vast amounts of money to youth projects such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the YMCA (something that occurred at the grand opening in Salt Lake City)
  4. They associate all their products with the potent Xbox brand which is seen as fun and exciting.
  5. Their TV commercials are filled with excitement, music, dancing and acted in by younger generations.
  6. The ‘Work can be play to’ idea that can be seen in the Surface Pro commercials that show off the      stylus and Microsoft Office products that work well with Microsoft’s products.

All this differentiation is important. Look back to the “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” commercials that Apple used to run that were so successful at captivating audiences. Now that Apple is being more and more associated with the older crowds, where it was once pioneered by younger groups, the opposite is happening with Microsoft, they are moving away from the older crowds and weaning their way in with the younger groups, and that is the strategy.

It is not something that is going to immediately light the fire and turn a huge amount of success over night. It takes time, as it is a long term strategy, and those strategies always work out better in the end. Microsoft has all the time in the world to turn itself into the all dominant brand, look how many years it took for Apple to get to where it is now.

Google has more or less taken Microsoft’s place in the branding market. They are the necessary evil that Microsoft was once seen as, and that is not a good place to be for any brand. Android and Google products annoy their customers, and are rarely loved in the way that a Windows Phone or even an iPhone is.

Microsoft will succeed and they are on the right path. The ‘analysts’ may not know where Microsoft is going (because they don’t try to think like they are in Microsoft’s shoes, but rather that they are looking for results today) but Microsoft certainly does, and they are going to succeed at it if they keep going the way that they are.


  • robertwade

    I very much agree. I’ve been very successful in convincing people to try Windows Phone and, as a result in some cases, seen a near frenetic drive to buy devices like the Lumia 920 precisely because of the advantages…and that they AREN’T an iPhone or Android device. Microsoft still keeps making some horrifying missteps, but thankfully Nokia has picked up the slack in almost every instance. Now, if Microsoft could stop bending to the whining coming from Windows users who can’t seem to break themselves of the Desktop and Start Button slavery, then we could make some headway.