It's official: we hate our customers.
At least, we're okay bullying them around and calling them names. I can only imagine Gates sneaking behind an Office customer to get down on all four so that Ballmer can push them backwards and flip them over, bellowing, "Dinosaur! Unevolved corporate dinosaur!"
Or maybe we're just being passive-aggressive, and name-calling them for their love and satisfaction with Office 97. They can't see any reason to upgrade to Office 2003. So we unleash our marketing campaigns to allow them to be enlightened to all the great reasons to upgrade to the latest version.
Isn't it a very big, loud "thunk!" of a product feature canary dropping dead when the features you ship are so intangible and unexplainable that marketing can't even market them? Instead, they have to show people creating dogpiles of ecstasy thanks to Great Moments at Work? Or, they have to resort to the emotions of fear and inadequacy by showing your old software represents reptilian-brain slowness on your part?
How about telling me directly why Word is so much better than in Office 97? Or Excel? Or - ooo! - okay, Outlook is indeed pretty. That makes me feel good... where's my wallet? PowerPoint, anything new there? As for the rest of the programs... well, I just get p.o.'d if I ever am forced into using them.
Strangely, Joe Wilcox thinks the Evolved marketing is great and refreshing. I'm missing something.
I'm more on-board with Geor ge Parker's rant. Same with Steve Rubel - Microsoft Office Marketing is Stuck in the Prehistoric Era (interesting comments there, too - dang, is Scoble just plain everywhere?). Steve provides three modern-day approaches for Microsoft Office to consider to get buzz building around the products:
- Find referenceable users and empower them to blog on your site - Use PubSub, Feedster, MSN Search and customer data, etc. and find the most vocal Office 2003 enthusiasts in the blogosphere. Initiate a dialogue with them and, if they're interested, give them blogs where they can regularly chronicle how they use Office 2003 to improve their daily productivity. Let the customers tell your story.
- Have loyal Office 2000 and 2003 users debate each other head-to-head - Find two users of the Office suite - one a loyal 2000 user, another a 2003 fan - and let them them debate each other on the merits of their choice of suite via a shared blog.
- Give out free upgrades - Seed 500 bloggers with free upgrades to Office 2003 and index their posts via an RSS-powered portal.
It would be interesting to see more Microsoft individual contributors actually actively advocating and using our products in a visible and shared fashion. But that would require giving them time to do this. I'm pretty passionate about what I develop and I do my best to advocate for it internally, but I can only dream about having time to build that to the next level of creating quality components I'd like to share outside of the intranet. I'm sure there are a lot of folks in Office that are the same way and can create tools and examples that make the latest bits shine, shimmer, and sing. But they are not afforded the time and luxury for this.
Is a Google-esque 20% affordance the answer? I don't think so (mostly because all the lazy dot-com dead-woods in my building would be the first lining up for that playtime). Maybe after we've had some good layoffs. But for now, if leadership was to get behind people providing compelling reasons for customers to use the latest technology, they can then ensure that folks producing quality results had the time to do so and that they were rewarded. If we can't demonstrate the coolness and greatness of our own products, who can?
Update: fixed bad anchor close tag. Clarification: what I'm looking for in the above two paragraphs isn't more blogging but rather a lightweight process where Microsofties can release great software - add-ons, power-toys, whatever - when our new software comes out that can build buzz and love for the new software rather than throwing it against the wall and seeing what sticks.