Inside "marketing at Microsoft"


Article here. I’ve been here for six years and have seen some big changes in how we “do marketing”. This is the first article I’ve seen that really sums up those changes. Flash back to 1999 and everything was about “customer satisfaction”. Six years later, it’s not a so-called buzzword anymore now that our focus as a company has shifted from being purely about the technology (build the features because we can) to being about customers (build the features because customers want them).


As someone who recruits for the marketing space, seeing marketing being clearly defined as a discipline makes my job easier. I think of the marketing career path as my product. It’s much easier to sell when I can describe it, point to it, etc. It makes any employment branding work that I do more real because the customer value proposition is defined…it gives us an employment brand promise to live up to. Wow..I am totally geeking out. There’s more to blog about here…another time.


Anyhoo, good reading for anyone thinking about a marketing career at Microsoft or who is just curious about who these marketing folks are and what exactly they are doing.

Comments (6)

  1. DennisWang says:

    I like the article…. coming from an industrial engineering background and plenty of marketing communications experience, it’s a little scary to think that Microsoft has not understood the marketing landscape till now. Bravo! I remember one of the mantras that my first boss told me about was you "own the customer experience’… whether through the product design, the communications medium, or through the marketing message. Your product and how it serves your customer is the ultimate judge of your longevity.

    As Rob mentions in his article, being the big guy on the block definitely allows Microsoft to throw its weight around… however, it leaves definite holes that competitors can exploit and possibly gain dominance… like with CRM applications, Search, and databases applications.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Paul says:

    Time will tell if Microsoft really gets it. I’ve been a long-time observer, admirer and critic of Microsoft. Marketing, in particular, has been a tremendous weak spot for Microsoft, probably (and ironically) because of the company’s tremendous market strength. Many of us have used Microsoft products because we had to, rather than because we wanted to – a fact that never seemed to sink in.

    It is worth noting that marketing is everything about how a company presents itself. It is about the product, how support answers the phone (and tries to steer you towards spending money for the call rather than answering a question about why you are having a meltdown), it is self-awareness and honesty (or lack of), it is about whether the company plays nice as the dominant vendor in the ecosystem. Every touchpoint with the consumer is Microsoft marketing, and marketing communications is a very small part of that. But, what many marketers miss is that marketing starts with understanding needs and solving genuine customer problems.

    Also as an aside, because the perception of Microsoft is so dominated by the image of Bill, is it about his earnestness and caring and generosity as demonstrated through his acts via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (lest you underestimate how much redemption and forgiveness this has bought Microsoft for its misbehaviors – I think the foundation and Bill’s good use of his power in trying to change big world problems, like AIDS in Africa have allowed people to hold contradictory feelings about the company simultaneously. i.e. it is the uncaring BORG, but deep down they are nice people, so maybe they’re just a little out of touch . . .) But, I digress from the reason I decided to add my comment.

    This article is interesting, but what is more interesting is what I see in these blogs. It is refreshing to see real people dealing with real day-to-day concerns and get some insights into what they are thinking – their motivations, their passions, what amuses them, and what frustrates and annoys them.

    Heather, I was contacted out of the blue by Chris Parker, and followed his link to his brand new blog, which led me to your blog. Microsoft is one of the last places I would have considered applying to, but now, I am actually wondering what it would be like there.

    This article offers a corporate background message which (good for you) is backed up by a number of small things I see changing in the market. And, it is amplified by your excellent blog – Thanks Heather.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Good comments Paul. I’ve often wondered why we don’t use real employees in our advertisements. Regardless, I definitely see us heading down the right path. You ar eright that it’s tough with a company this size. I just think about the idea of brand and advertising consistency across the company and it makes my head spin.

  4. Paul says:

    Microsoft has used employees in ads, but (and I may not remember this accurately) I believe the last time was back in the 80s. The better alternative would be using customers with employees, if you really want to get people focused on satisfying and understanding needs (ads like that send a message to both customers and employees).

    What I really meant to say, and probably didn’t very well, was that I admire your enthusiasm and excitement, and the fact that you can get all the way to "it gives us an employment brand promise to live up to" before you check yourself. This is not geeky – at least not in a tech-head kind of way. It is the attitude that must sweep Microsoft for Ballmer’s and Mathew’s vision to flourish.

    It’s a healthy attitude, and I hope you won’t take it the wrong way if I describe it as "cute" – in the same way that a young child’s innocence can be cute and profound at the same time.

    I was trying to get across how good your blog is, because it communicates something stronger than pure facts, and how powerful a sales tool it is because of that.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    Paul, I need to learn how to take a compliment better (I’ve always had that problem, I used to try and convince people they were wrong when they complimented me). Anyway, your nice words are the kind of encouragement I need to keep doing this. Sometimes it feels like I am doing all this work to share when a couple people come by and rip to to shreds. So knowing how it’s perceived and hearing things like you said ("cute" works for me…I think of it as a combo of snarky/fun/informative) makes me want to keep on doing it. Thanks for that!

  6. Valerie Stiller says:

    After hearing from you recently re: my resume, I did a little surfing and found your blog. What made my day was coming across the article, “The Ultimate Bug Fix.” The changes that have taken place and continue to occur in the Microsoft marketing area make my little customer-focused heart very happy. I like how marketing and product development are sitting down together at the start of their process. After having worked with manufacturing firms and pushing to get the marketing team a seat at the table, I can tell you that it does make a big difference in success of the final product.

    If you didn’t already have my paperwork, I’d be forwarding it ASAP.

    Thanks for providing so much great information.