How I’d Spend $1.5 Billion To Sell Windows 8

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The rumors are that Microsoft is planning to spend between $1.5 and $1.8 billion marketing its newest operating system, Windows 8. It’s a fair guesstimate that we’ll get lots of glossy ads, tons of “content” on social platforms, and pretty much every other trick and tool that a veritably endless amount of money will buy. Some of the stuff will win awards at industry conferences, and some of it will get dinged for being useless.

And all it will amount to is another costly product launch by a brand that all but has to offer its regular OS upgrades for the billions of computers that run it, and then cash the checks.

Only times are a’changing. There’s meaningful competition from Apple (not to mention the ever-present Linux), and the Big New Kahuna of mobile is thought by many to be the real destination for anybody’s OS. I’ve never met anybody who as bought a PC or smartphone because it runs on Microsoft. So even thought $1.5 billion can purchase ever conceivable buzzworthy new marketing idea — I can just imagine the agency feeding frenzy that has been going on for a while now — the Windows 8 launch really needs to accomplish something different, which would argue for doing it differently.

But as we all know, think different isn’t a Microsoft moniker. So here’s what I would have recommended to the brand had its brain trust asked for my input a year ago:

Spend $500 million building the most robust, meaningful services offering so a 2-year guarantee of functionality and interoperability could be offered as a free benefit to every individual Windows 8 user; spend another $500 million telling them about it; and invest the remaining $500 million in a public collaborative process to engage with users to develop Windows 9.

In other words, redefine the brand. Here’s how each element might work:

Guaranteed Satisfaction: The vast number of programs that run on Microsoft’s OS, whether on a computer or smartphone, means that there are incomprehensibly many and often frequent occasions for things to fail or simply not work properly. Imagine if owning Windows 8 meant that you’d never suffer such indignities, and instead were supported by real people working customer service phones, offered access to physical service centers (Windows retail stores, anybody?), and given fixes, adapters, and whatever help you needed for free. It would fundamentally change the brand from that of a product to that of an ongoing relationship that changed, grew, and got stronger as new programs and user cases were found.

Truthful Marketing: My bet is that the promise of Microsoft works would be far more compelling than any pitch that it works sleekly, creatively, or whatever. It would also be objectively verifiable, and it could be improved and expanded by real actions and responses. Therefore, it would be a core truth on which its advertising and social outreach could be based. It could be funny, hire aging celebrities, and do whatever else it thinks is funny or memorable, only there’s always be the lodestone of truth underlying its messaging. It could find ways to creative reinforce this truth. Every new PC software announcement would be a chance to remind consumers of Microsoft’s brand promise, thereby turning everyone else’s marketing into marketing for the brand (think “Intel Inside,” only with real meaning).

Real Collaboration: Why not anoint every Windows 8 user a participant in the conversation about creating Windows 9, which would start the moment 8 hits the market? This would not only reinforce the satisfaction guarantee and truth of the marketing messaging, but quite literally transform Microsoft’s users into members of a community that had real meaning and value. Collaboration could be built-into the Windows 8 experience — from anonymous and automatic user reporting, to active involvement in issues resolution and testing online or in-person — and make co-owners out of whatever Windows 9 ends up looking like. I’d also give them discounts on that product, which would also come with the end-to-end services offering.

Microsoft could use its cycle of OS updates and re-dos as the basis for locking its customers into a compelling lifetime-long commitment. It would change not only the company but perhaps the entire tech industry.

Of course, none of this will happen. I’m just hoping they skip hiring Jerry Seinfeld.

Image via flickr

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