Microsoft’s Advertising Activities
The core purpose of advertising campaigns is to promote products or services with the purpose of influencing sells growth, but for succeeding in doing so, advertisers must know their target audience and customize the commercial message to fit their communication register (Hofeman and Bateson, 2010). For a company like Microsoft, which benefits of long – lasting worldwide presence through iconic hardware accessories and software programs, communication needed to adjust to different environments and social changes. This is why, there can be observed various trends in Microsoft’s advertising campaigns over the years. Nevertheless, an important aspect that contributes to its advertising campaign evolution, from large campaign to a somewhat reduced advertising presence in the recent years, is its product development strategy.
For years, Microsoft has been an innovator. MS DOS, Windows, Microsoft office package, Xbox and Kinect media devices or the MSN are some of the most popular Microsoft products, available across the world, which have changed the way people lived their lives in a considerable manner. No wonder that Microsoft has largely advertised is offerings across impressive campaigns announcing consumers of new products that promised to bring them closer to the future.
As mentioned earlier, Microsoft’s communication patterns have changed over time, because its consumers and its products have evolved. With each new released offering, Microsoft approached a different advertising strategy. From the 1986 commercial for Windows 1, starring the company’s CEO, to the current Windows 10 commercial, starring babies and Ethan Hawk as voiceover, Microsoft’s communication style has changed, while its advertising strategy was adjusted to its business strategy.
The company approached humour, celebrity endorsement, anecdotes, parodies and even attacks to competitors’ products as its marketing tactics, which define its marketing communication. The 1986 advertising starring Steve Ballmer, introduced a once in a lifetime innovation, reflected by Ballmer’s over – enthusiastic, almost hysterical promotion of the software. Over the years, Microsoft continue to use celebrity endorsement, starring Jerry Seinfeld, Queen Latifah, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien or even Bill Gates (Levesque, 2013). The direct sells approach from the eighties subtly shifted into a more sophisticated communication in the nineties, while announcing Windows 3, which was more user – friendly and intuitive (Windows 3 Advert 1990, 2014). As the consumers’ sophistication grew across the beginning of the 21st century, so did Microsoft’s advertising approach, pursuing a fresh and almost objective communication style with the introduction of Windows 10 (First Windows 10 Commercial, 2015).
Microsoft benefited of classical promotion but also unconventional campaigns. Bill Gates’ charity work is an effective advertising strategy, which answers the consumer awareness tendencies, sensitizing the general market to purchase Microsoft’s products in support for different causes that Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sponsors. Not only is this strategy aimed at attracting attention on the causes that Microsoft supports for sensitizing the general consumers into purchasing more Microsoft products, but most importantly, it is aimed at transforming the aided populations into paying customers. Moreover, the student scholarships is yet another powerful and sustainable strategy for the company to develop its products, customizing future consumers with the features of Microsoft’s products, while also investing in potential workforce that would better and innovate its products.
The classical promotion has been more intense in the eighties, nineties and early twenties, announcing the introduction of revolutionary products, as the ones mentioned above. As strong rivals such as Apple or Google introduced revolutionary products and services, such as the IPhone, IPod or ITunes (Apple), or with the advancement of Gmail, Google search engine or Google cloud, Microsoft became a follower.
In various, Microsoft bantered or criticized the competitors’ products, despite the fact that it followed their leads. For Google’s products, Microsoft parodied its cloud system, making it look as unreliable comparable to its Microsoft 365 program (Googlihthing, 2012). In addition, Microsoft developed an alternative for Google search engine, which is Bing. It also entered the smartphone market by partnering with Nokia and launching the Microsoft Lumia, although its former CEO, Steve Ballmer criticized iPhone as not being people cantered for not having a keyboard machine (“Microsoft CEO Ballmer Laughs at Apple iPhone”).
Although Microsoft continues to promote its products and offerings, its advertising campaign is not as aggressive and as large as it once was. One major reason for this aspect seems to be the fact that the company did not produce real innovations, but it copied its competitors. Besides improvement to the existing products, such as new versions of Windows, new versions of Xbox and similar product extension strategies, the firm did not introduce really successful and revolutionary products capable to echo its classical offerings. From a follower position, Microsoft reduced its classical advertising presence, but through its sponsorship and charity programs it continues to invest in the promotion of its products in a sustainable manner. The company is approaching a silent advertising strategy, targeting specific groups of people by helping disadvantaged communities.
As consumers changed across time, so did their communication styles and Microsoft adapts to these changes. Its reduced advertising present from the recent years mirrors the fact that in terms of technological innovations it had not been a leader, but a follower. However, while the company reduced its advertising campaigns that created visibility around its offerings, its advertising efforts are not reduced. Through its sponsorship and charity programs Microsoft aims to transform the beneficiary of its programs into its future customers.
First Windows 10 commercial [Online]. Available at < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qr-1Q6NjMW4>. [Accessed 28 January, 2016].
Googlighting [Online]. 2012. Available at < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QI4KmlcQr4 >. [Accessed 28 January, 2016].
Hoffman, K.D. and Bateson, J.E.G. 2010. Services marketing: Concepts, strategies & cases. Fourth edition. Mason: Cengage Learning.
Levesque, J. 2013. Final analysis: Do Microsoft’s celebrity endorsements work? [Online]. Available from < http://www.seattlebusinessmag.com/article/final-analysis-do-microsofts-celebrity-endorsements-work>. [Accessed 28 January 2016].
Microsoft CEO Ballmer Laughs at Apple iPhone. 2009. [Online]. Available at < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DO4pL9P6uow>. [Accessed 28 January, 2016].
Microsoft Windows 1.0 with Steve Ballmer. 2011. [Online]. Available at < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtuDS0ntaJY >. [Accessed 28 January, 2016].
Windows 3 advert 1990. 2014. [Online]. Available at < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=re4NNM9gSyk >. [Accessed 28 January, 2016].