Here at the ThirdWay Advertising Blog we are not shy about our opinions. We often tell our readers that companies are wasting money with ad campaigns. However, we have always stopped short of actually throwing down the gauntlet and challenging a company to stop doing something we think is foolish.
That ends today.
There were two big pieces of news out of Microsoft this week, both of which will affect the Microsoft brand. The first (which we covered in our most recent post) was the launch of the new operating system Windows Vista. We commented that the $500mm being spent to launch this product is wasteful and will not help Microsoft or Vista. We base this on the absurd spending levels, recent Microsoft campaigns and previous Windows launches.
We also pointed out that spending $500mm to promote a product that will get 90% market share without a cent of investment is a little batty, to say the least. It seems that Microsoft is really trying to generate excitement around the product and the company, which sounds more like a job for PR to us.
This is where the second big piece of news comes in. This week, a poll by Harris Interactive and The Wall Street Journal ranked Microsoft as the company with the best corporate reputation, ahead of perennial favorite (and our alma mater) Johnson & Johnson. What was most intriguing about this result is that one of the prime reasons for Microsoft’s huge jump in this poll is the work of the Gates Foundation. After years of being considered the ‘evil empire’, Bill Gates has single-handedly changed the image of his company in the mind of the public with his impressive and original contribution to American Philanthropy. The Gates Foundation is not only huge – it genuinely operates like a business and brings entrepreneurial smarts to big social problems worldwide (like malaria) that were not getting adequate funding and attention.
It turns out that philanthropy has been a better business proposition (in terms of corporate reputation) than the $500 million spent on the ‘People-Ready Software’ campaign last year. Ironically, we predicted this (look at the bottom of our post on People Ready Advertising here). And it makes sense that a company which enjoys a monopoly in many markets should benefit more from image-enhancement and a corporate reputation overhaul than traditional advertising.
So here is our challenge to Microsoft. Cancel the ad buys for Windows Vista. Get a microphone and hold a press conference and say that you’re giving the money to the Gates Foundation on behalf of Windows Vista. And then see what happens. We predict stratospheric media coverage, significant improvement in likeability for Microsoft and even a noticeable sales bump for Windows Vista. Yes – we’re saying this would be a good business investment.
Too much money is spent every year screaming at consumers with messages they have either already heard or do not care about. Microsoft is about to add to the din. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a company do something genuinely useful and see good business results for it?
We suspect Microsoft will not listen to the lonely voice of one advertising blog, but they will listen to you. If you are reading this and you blog it, the voices will accumulate and be heard. And perhaps we can do something good for everyone – including Microsoft.