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Microsoft's marketing message is as clear as mud.

What is Microsoft? What position does it occupy in the consumer's mind? When you think of Microsoft, what's the first image that pops into your head?

In my mind (as a software developer) Microsoft is a company that provides the Windows OS, and software development tools and APIs for it.

My mental image of Microsoft does not include:

  • A database vendor (SQL Server)
  • A web publishing tools vendor (FrontPage and/or successors)
  • Office productivity software vendor (Office)
  • Web server vendor (IIS)
  • Graphics editing software (PictureIt! and successors)
  • Video game software development house (XBox, all those PC games they try to sell)
  • Hardware vendor (Mouse, keyboard)
  • Web browser provider (Internet Explorer)
  • Web portal/community provider (MSN)
  • Web search provider (MSN search)
  • Mobile multimedia player vendor (Zune)

I had to think a bit to come up with that list, and I'm sure I've missed a bunch of MS products.

Now, I may have this image in my head because I'm primarily a software developer, and only secondarily a user of office productivity software or database systems. Other types of users, office workers, for example, will have a different image of Microsoft ("Microsoft Office").

Microsoft tries to be all things to all computer/technology users, and as a result, often ends up playing second fiddle (or worse) to the company that occupies the top slot in the consumer's mind.

How can it be otherwise? By diluting the company marketing message, Microsoft expends its marketing energies across a wide spectrum, thus limiting the strength of the message. Microsoft often sends conflicting messages (and, as a software developer, Microsoft competes or threatens to compete with me or the company I work for).

This dilution of Microsoft's marketing message works against their best interest - they should be doing everything in their power to put forth a simple, focused message to create a unique position in the consumers' minds. To do otherwise is to beg for a continued slide into irrelevance. Microsoft cannot be all things to all people.

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