Dear Microsoft, Stop Trying To Be Funny.

August 6, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Branding

Twitter is down today. (OMG WTF!) So now it’s up to you to amuse me. Let’s play a game. Ready? I’m gonna say a word and you’re going to think of a few adjectives to describe that word.

The word is Microsoft. I’ll give you a second.

So what did you think of? Blue screens? Redmond? Bill Gates? Balmer? Office products? I bet you didn’t think of this:

Because that’s not who Microsoft is.

The horrifically AWESOME video above was the recent winner of Bing’s jingle contest. Meaning that someone from Microsoft actually selected it as the winner. I’m crossing my fingers it was selected to be “amusing” or as a “joke”, but even so, Microsoft – you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re Microsoft, here’s something you need to realize – you’re not funny.
And not only are you not funny, you’re not associated with funny. It doesn’t come naturally to you. And when you attempt to be something you’re not in life – you fail. Every time. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a walk down memory lane.

Remember those horrible Jerry Seinfeld commercials? Or maybe the bizarre Wordsmith commercial with the singing father and daughter? How about the IE 8 commercial where a lady actually VOMITS and her husband SLIPS on it? (Don’t click that link. Really). All examples of Microsoft trying to be quirky and failing.

They’re failing because they’re going against their brand. If you want to be successful and win people over, you have to be you. That’s all you need to do. Stop trying so hard to impress us.

Microsoft is a serious company. And they should stop trying to apologize for that. They offer some good products. They help people. They’re finally getting interesting. Microsoft needs to start focusing on that and being more straightforward about the benefits involved with being associated with the brand. Because that’s how they’re going to find success. By bleeding what they are. That’s how you create a genuine brand that people cling to and respect. We can tell when you’re faking it.

Microsoft’s greatest challenge right now is proving that Bing is a serious search engine. They need to prove to the common man that they can trust them. They need honest commercials that explain, in very simple terms, what you offer. They’re a decision engine. They can fill in the holes Google leaves. They’re different. Awesome. Now they need to establish trust. To prove authority. And to start taking themselves, and their products, a bit more seriously. You’re not going to spark my curiosity about your product through strange dance numbers, impromptu duets and vomit. You’re going to do it by showing me what you offer and making me feel like I’m missing out by not getting to know you. Create commercials that highlight your features. Show me the benefits of Bing.

I think a lot of us are really rooting for Bing. We want Bing to do well and to take back some of Google’s market share. Because for the first time in awhile, Microsoft finally has a product that’s worth something. That search engine is not a joke. It’s actually, at times, pretty impressive. And I think Microsoft is doing a great disservice to itself, and its products, by taking the lowbrow approach to marketing.

If your brand is not associated with humor, don’t try and be funny. It’s comfortable to watch — like when the school geek tries to ask out the prom queen. Microsoft needs to get a handle on its brand identity issues before they tank Bing with their lame marketing like Ask.com tank its engine. Cheap laughs win you friends in high school. It’s time to evolve.

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