Magazine article Marketing

Microsoft, the Underdog

Magazine article Marketing

Microsoft, the Underdog

Article excerpt

The software giant wants to position itself as a challenger brand online, writes Andrew McCormick.

Ashley Highfield has a problem. When Google prepares to launch a product, the global anticipation is akin to the prospect of a second coming; with Apple, it's bigger. However, when a new service rolls out of the door of Microsoft's product development department, more often than not a shrug ripples around the internet like a Mexican wave at a goalless draw. This is often followed by derision, as people set to picking holes in the ad campaigns promoting the products.

While Microsoft's UK marketing may not have been at the cutting edge, none of its ads has been as widely panned as examples from the US and Poland. These have included the much derided, contest-winning Bing Goes the Internet jingle, the unintentionally comic Windows 7 Party video and a web ad featuring a man whose skin colour was partially changed from black to white for an Eastern European audience.

It would, of course, be unfair to blame Highfield, managing director and vice-president, consumer and online at Microsoft UK, for any of these difficulties. The public will this week get to scrutinise his most high-profile campaign since taking up his role just over a year ago: ads for search engine Bing. The push, says Highfield, is intended 'to be light-hearted, humorous, and in a tone of voice that is more self-deprecating and light-hearted'.

Search is one rare business area in which Microsoft is a true underdog One might think that when a rival's brand has become so widely recognised that it is commonly used as a verb, it might be time to concentrate on something else, yet Microsoft has put dollars 2bn into developing Bing.

Highfield is now taking the fight to Google with the multi-million-pound Bing campaign and some tough talking.

'We have 3% share and want to take that to a point where Bing is a product no one can ignore - that means getting to double-digit market share,' he says. 'First, we have to remind people that there's another way of searching. Once we've established this idea that the dominant product hasn't changed much in 10 years and we have a much more rich, innovative, intuitive way of approaching search, I hope that message will land well and we can build share.'

It's a tough challenge, but at least Highfield, previously chief executive of proposed VOD platform Project Kangaroo, has a decent brand to work with. Windows Live Search, the forerunner to Bing, was a tough sell, being caught up in Microsoft's curious decision to apply the Windows Live prefix to many of its web-based services and applications. …

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