Successful companies eventually fall into a middle age funk. It’s a certainty.
And like the receding hairline and paunchy waist line that defines many a 40-something male, the corporate mid-life crisis features a host of less than desirable attributes, including bloated bureaucracy, loss of innovation and stagnant growth.
Once the down cycle takes hold it can simply be too problematic and painful to combat inertia. Few companies pull an Apple and experience a renaissance.
Ask Microsoft’s Kathleen Hall if her company is on the path to revival and she’ll confidently answer in the affirmative. As Corporate Vice President of Global Advertising, Hall directs creative development, media and promotion across Microsoft’s consumer and commercial brands.
“When I joined Microsoft we were being defined by the competition,” she told an attentive audience of her peers in New York City last week at Financial Times’ Future of Marketing Summit. “I was confident that through marketing we could help affect how the company viewed itself.”
Hall’s recipe for brand transformation blends four primary ingredients:
1. Establish an emotional point of view. According to Hall, Microsoft represents access to opportunity, rather than the technology elitist vibe embraced by competitors like Apple and Google.
“We are about the everyman,” she said. “Our products are steady and reliable.
2. Come out of our shell. Microsoft has acted like a challenger in emerging markets and taken unexpected approaches with its creative.
About its use of a traditionally un-Microsoft approach to advertising, Hall said, “We might get hit, yet we will at least take some ground.”
3. Connect with people in a meaningful and relevant way. Hall explained the company employs personal stories to showcase the opportunity its customers realize through Microsoft technology.
4. Define the new norm. Microsoft continues to go on the offensive with sustained and aggressive advertising to reinforce its refreshed brand positioning. For instance, the company has appeared on the Super Bowl during the past few years.
Is Microsoft’s brand transformation truly a success story? Has the company shed its middle age funk?
My take is that it is very much a work in progress. There are glimmers of innovation, such as the Microsoft Surface which has now generated more than $1B in revenue.
Regardless, Hall’s advertising has very much contributed in a positive and meaningful way.