Long-time Lairig Marketing readers will recall that way back in late 2010 we made predictions for each month of 2011. For November 2011 we anticipated:
“The business press can’t keep up with the rash of stories about CEOs being dismissed, including one sweaty bald guy out west.”
We were, as usual, two years early. Steve Ballmer’s “bonus” CEO time is Exhibit A of Microsoft’s board-level dysfunction. How is it possible that there has been absolutely zero succession planning in Redmond all this time?
Speculation abounds about the next Microsoft CEO. Internal or external? Young or old? Tech or nontech?
None of that matters.
What’s needed is a senior executive who can eliminate the “douche chills” of Microsoft’s branding and marketing.
Like Ballmer himself, Microsoft’s brand and product messaging has always been about being louder and longer, and always off from the real customer need by about 47 degrees. Think about the effort for the now-defunct Zune. Microsoft came off the blocks trying to disparage the undisparageable Apple iPod.
Then, realizing how stupid that was, Zune messaging shifted to a benefit (sharing your entire playlist) that no one gave a rat’s ass about. In typical Ballmer fashion, Zune’s marketing kept hammering and hammering away at this single focus.
Think also about the Bing introductory TV campaign. A loud, messy mélange. Sixty seconds of complete non-resonance.
Think also about the Surface tablet multimillion-dollar TV campaign. A slightly aged and derivative High School Musical – targeting the user base that Apple had already conquered. Leading to another billion-dollar write-off for MSFT.
And just for grins, think about the douche chills created with the Bill Gates/Jerry Seinfeld TV spots. If you ever need to illustrate what “WTF” means to someone, use these as examples.
Steve Jobs himself could not turn Microsoft around (unless his first act was to chop the company up into a minimum of five pieces, four of which should be immediately sold to some other company to manage). But what Microsoft’s next CEO needs is one unique attribute of Jobs – the ability to understand the most important customer needs, and how to effectively connect branding and marketing messages to them.