Friday, November 30, 2012

Microsoft's Latest Internet Explorer Commercial: Smart, Funny and Gutsy

Why do I really like Microsoft's latest commercial for its Internet Explorer (IE) browser targeting the brand averse and think it's a smart and gutsy experiment that just might work?

First, it's an excellent example of story telling in a commercial -- and it's a pretty compelling and humorous story. Told without a single word being spoken. I find that story benefits the brand on a number of levels. It has the potential to connect with the target audience -- best described as Internet Explorer (IE) haters (and there's a lot of them posting away and trolling in social media, as well as engaged in passionate offline conversations about their anti-IE feelings). These folks are entrenched, so winning them over would be no small feat, and I'm confident the folks at Microsoft are very aware of this and have set their expectations accordingly.

Microsoft realizes the journey from hater to being ready to give the brand another try is not an easy one and opts for "baby steps" instead of great leaps. Microsoft is basically pragmatically communicating, "Give us a little consideration and you may find a nice pay off." The new IE functionality presented in the spot -- the dangling carrot --is the kind of thing that is compelling to such consumers. 

Microsoft's marketers realize how curious technology types are and is playing with that fact. It also knows that there's a part of those haters that might only want to learn and try out the browser even if it only means an opportunity to tell others how awful it is -- and Microsoft is basically daring them.

Second, this commercial shows that Microsoft gets it, and even better, it's not afraid to be frank about its browsers brand image. This shows that the brand, and, no doubt, the brand manager, has guts -- or "brass," as a former American president likes to say. The commercial doesn't make an unrealistic leap or ignore reality of the current state of the brand image with the audience it is targeting -- and the truth is, most brands will ignore such groups and find easier to persuade groups -- that's historically true of Microsoft. Instead, Microsoft chooses to boldly face reality head on, in a manner that is both respectful and empathetic towards its highly critical target audience. And I think this is one of the smartest things, is that the execution reveals that the brand has a sense of humor and is almost self-deprecating about its relationship with the target audience. After all, the brand certainly can't point the finger of blame at its targets, it needs to own up and let them know that it realizes the relationship isn't in a great place right now, that it's history is less than ideal, but it is out to win you back based solely on the merits of the  latest iteration of its browser. 

Third, it's clear that Microsoft doesn't have unrealistic expectations for its target audience. As I mentioned before, most marketers are likely to either write off the brand  averse and instead focus on easier to win target audiences or even message the brand averse as if they expect them to simply forget their bad history with the brand and consume the new messages with a fresh perspective. But that's not how reality works and Microsoft understands that. And considering the size of the market, Microsoft is willing to work hard to try to win these very important and influential users back. Microsoft is basically saying to them, "Just take a look at this latest version. Consider these new features we're bringing to market before our competitors. Give us a fair shot." I think that's a smart and reasonable goal. Kudos to the Microsoft team responsible for this campaign. 

The next step is for IE to deliver the goods. That, of course, is the most critical component of this equation.