Heartstrings: available for the tugging

No, this isn’t a personal ad. You know me better than that!

I already talked about holiday advertisements and how they send me into a total state of selective sensory rejection. Yeah, I just made that up. My point is that I find it necessary sometimes to block out those things that drive me nutso. You put enough of those things together and my body takes over…it’s the equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing “lalalala…I’m not listening”…only less annoying. For a good long time those things sink into my mind and tick me off and then at some point, possibly the point where my survival instinct kicks in (anyone ever heard of ropey saliva? It’s my favorite flight or fight indicator…what’s yours?), my mind says to my body “Dude…are you going to do something about this? She’s losing it. Can you at least turn down the volume”. It’s kind of like the flip side of what happens to me when I am working out; body to mind: “Dude…she’s not liking this. It hurts. You know she’s trying to think of a reason to step off the machine. Why don’t you just send her to her happy place?”. Hmm, the body has a mind of it’s own, yet the mind doesn’t have a body of it’s own. Hardly seems fair. By the way, this all makes sense in my happy place.

Anyway, the holiday advertisements will generally contain a few heart string pullers. Anyone remember that one with Corey Feldman when he was a little kid and saw that Santa was real? Did anyone stop reading that sentence when I said “Corey Feldman”? I loved that ad. Don’t be a Corey hater.

We’ve done some heart string pulling ourselves at Microsoft with the “Your potential. Our passion.” campaign. Check out the conection between the campaigns and some of the things Microsoft is doing here. This is yummy marketing goodness in my opinion. Did you know that campaign started as a recruitment campaign…cool, huh? Those advertisements really touched me; in part due to the fact that my passion around working for Microsoft has more to do with what technology can help people achieve than the technology itself. It made people *feel* something about Microsoft; it gave them a little peek behind the curtain so they could understand what we are about.

I get that different types of ads work for different situations. Some are a call to action, some have a scruffy-looking twenty something trying to convince you that Apple has significantly more of the desktop market than they do (oops…did I just say that?). Some advertisements are about brand, about telling people what your company stands for. And this is where I think the heartstrings stuff comes into place…making you “feel” something.

Sometimes, as someone who works for Microsoft and experiences first-hand what we stand for, I get a little frustrated that we seem to have such a difficult time articulating it publicly. Trust me, I am someone who is fine talking about opinions, but when it comes to feelings I get a little uncomfortable. I think that to some extent, Microsoft is the same. We are missing opportunities to tell people about the great things that people at our company do and how freakishly passionate we are about changing peoples’ lives.  It may sound goofy to you, but when you see it in action, it’s pretty inspiring. Unfortunately, we aren’t confident in our ability to talk about how great our people are without perpetuating an image as “arrogant”. At least that is how I see it.

The problem is that people outside the company don’t have as much opportunity to see our passion (a much over-used term but it’s all I’ve got in regards to this discussion) in action. I think that is part of the reason I blog. I want people to know that the recruiting “black hole”, or the recruiter as paper-pusher or <insert negative recruiting stereotype here> isn’t what we are all about. Some of us do care incredibly about the candidate experience, we are smart and we do have lives outside of Microsoft, some of us have even been referred to as funny, but I think some of you might just need higher humor standards (hee!). And if we sometimes talk about going to the gym too much, please consider that we are trying to psych ourselves up (I’m just saying).

I guess the point that I am trying to make is that I feel that where some kind of emotion-based marketing is needed, I really wish that we as a company did better. When we talk about people being our biggest and best asset, as quippy as it sounds, it’s true and I think that the best thing that we could do is show the world the amazing people that we have here (which is why I used to bristle at the use of stock photography in our recruitment advertising). In a tiny, little nichey, grassroots way, I feel some responsibility for that (though I still contend that my blog is evangelism, not marketing…we don’t need to debate this topic again). I know that most of our advertising needs to be customer-centric, but I think there’s a need for customers to really understand what we are all about. Because if we don’t tell the story, the market will tell it for us and it may not necessarily be true (I’m not going to refer to those crunchy fruit ads again). Especially after those dinosaur ads. It took me a while to understand why people had such a strong reaction to those…I get it now. I think I was clouded by my extreme dislike of mascots in human clothing, especially those with human hands (the Burger King scares the dickens out of me). People felt like we were saying: “we think you are dinosaurs (metaphorically)”. That may or may not have been true in the case of some targets of the ad, but people felt that we should not be saying that to customers; that it wasn’t really the right way to make the point. Yeah, I get it now. Also, dinosaur heads are scary.

We now have a campaign called “People Ready“. Granted, I am not the target of these advertisements (I believe that the targets are IT Pros and Business Decision Makers….people we like to capitalize). But I think the ads are a step in the right direction, though I’m not 100% getting the full message yet. Hopefully, as the campaign progresses, the idea of People Ready will be further developed and articulated. I definitely think that it hints at what we are about (a variation on the “potential” theme), but doesn’t beat you about the head with it. I kind of want to beaten about the head with it…just a little. With all of these holiday advertisements, I think that is the only way it will make it past my coping mechanism.


Comments (14)

  1. Jessica says:

    I’ll admit, at uni it was cool to be Microsoft hater for any and no reason and I was one of them. Since starting work, my favourite hate channel as been IE and the joys of HTML/CSS across browsers. I also found RSS feeds and have watched MSDN Blogs for a while now. I have to say, my favourite posts are the ones where staffers talk about anything other than their technical work. I seriously had one of those lightbulb moments when I realised you guys have lives, you’re real people, you have real interests, and you care about what you to.

    Your blog in particular (and a few other faves) are nothing but inspirational and I’m now looking into how I could go about working at Microsoft one day, this is cheesy but instead of complaining about the problem I want to be part of the solution and work with the brilliant passionate people there. All going to plan, my ultimate goal would be to be the chick in the Microsoft version of those McDonald’s "Make up your own mind" ads we have here in Australia 😛

    Seriously though, you do an awesome job here for Microsoft, promoting the company and working for it in ways that couldn’t happen through traditional recruiting (at least not the kind I’ve been subject to).

    Well done and thank you.

  2. Bad_Brad says:

    I worked in the airline industry for several years, and I was working for one of the airlines whose planes were hi-jacked and crashed on 9/11.  I can recall an American Airlines ad shortly after 9/11 that was a pretty strong emotional ad, which stirred me up pretty well at the time.  After having just seen several co-workers (as well as several thousand people) get killed, after seeing our company (and the nation’s air travel) literally shut down for over a week, after watching over a quarter of our staff get laid off within three weeks of 9/11 (with the rest of us "asked" to take 20% + paycuts), and watching the overall collective impact that this day had on the psyche of our nation, I must say these were the most meaningful and powerful ads I had ever seen.  Without saying a thing, they declared absolute solidarity with AA’s employees and customers (and indeed the American travelling public as a whole) in the face of whatever challenge lay ahead.  Links below (I know it’s a competitor’s product).



  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Jessica- talk about pulling heartstrings…thank you so much for saying all of that! You don’t know how much your comments make me want to keep blogging! That’s awesome and I needed that positive feedback. THANK YOU!!

    BAD_Brad – I could see how those ads would get you pumped.

  4. mrscrooge says:

    Slightly OT – anyone check out that picture of Ballmer and Hillfiger on the People Ready site. Woah!

  5. Christine says:

    I think the reason people hate Microsoft is the same reason so many foreigners blindly hate America.  In each of those cases, Microsoft/America is Goliath (inherently bad b/c it’s the most powerful) and those who hate Microsoft/America get to be Davids, righteously and heroically taking on Goliath (cue majestic music).  

    Of course, the major problem in this analogy is the fact that it’s usually done so blindly.  People love to hate the most successful person in the room, whether or not that person deserves his or her success.  Microsoft deserves its success–you all have worked hard for years to make things easier for the rest of us.    But people don’t want to see that b/c it would ruin the David and Goliath fantasy.

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    mrscrooge – I didn’t see that…what page is it on?

    Christine – I would agree with that to a point. Well, actually, I agree with all of it. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t think that we could do better in helping people understand what we are about. There’s a certain sense of humor that we have as a company that we don’t seem to want to let people know about, for example.

    I can totally understand why people would see themselves as the David in that scenario (for those that aren’t familiar, David is a man that kills a feared giant). I always identify with the underdog in any scenario. I think that’s why we need to get better about showing who our people are…we seem more like a bunch of Davids than one big Goliath, if that makes any sense.

    I always consider that people in other countries dislike Americans because of "ugly American" syndrome. I don’t know if you have ever been traveling and experienced this, but I have and it’s mortifying. It’s not limited to just Americans, but still, being American, I notice the American version of it. I would consider that a big contributor too. Hopefully those in other countries that come into contact with Americans remember the well-behaved ones most of all. As far as Microsoft employees, I’m not sure if I count as a well-behaved one, but I try.

  7. mrscrooge says:

    >so many foreigners blindly hate America

    >those who hate Microsoft/America get to be Davids

    At the risk of sliding down the political slope – I humbly disagree with this statement, this  has absolutely nothing to do with why people hate Microsoft.

    Most people abroad don’t have a problem with Americans. They have a problem with American foreign policy and with our acquiescence of said policies. I’d be more than happy to discuss offline, let me know and I’ll send you an email address.

    Heres the pic, its under "Information for Journalists".


  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    mrscrooge – are you talking to Christine? I assume so since you are quoting her comments. You know I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to find out who you really are, but hoping to keep my blog apolitical. I have strong feelings about politics that I save for discussions somewhere else besides here. : )

    I have friends with political opinions that differ from mine. Our ability to discuss the issues diplomatically is based on our personal friendships and the fact that we can have a private discussion without people judging (and also, the discussions are better had away from work, in my opinion). So anyway, I don’t want to go there on my blog. Hope you understand. Guess my attempt tp move the topic away from the political above was a little half-hearted. I’ll try harder!

  9. mrscrooge says:

    Yes, sorry I should’ve been more clear – I was referring to Christine’s comments. Totally agree, not a place to go on your blog hence the offline-offer to Christine (or anyone else) who wants to discuss. Also, I don’t think you need to "try harder" or anything of that sort, you’re doing just great and I’m sure everyone else who reads your blog will agree.

    >Our ability to discuss the issues diplomatically is based on our personal friendships

    Interesting – do you think the same applies to discussion of sport? Or do people seem more passionate and open about their personal opinions regarding sport?

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    scrooge- I think it depends. I think there are some people that will see things how they want to see them with regards to sports regardless of how close of friends they are with the person with whom they are discussing it. Are you on the football aliases? I have some friends that I discuss sports with and it’s very cordial. We still want our team to win but not to the point of being a jerk about it.  Come to think of it, I don’t have any friends that went to ND. It might be a challenge to keep my mouth shut but I could do it.

    I will say that having a family of Texas and OSU fans, I have learned when I can and cannot have those discussions. Same people I decide not to have the political discussions with. I’m the outcast, i guess 🙂

  11. Christine says:

    I wasn’t trying to make an overtly political comment; it was meant just to point out that there are metaphorical parallels, that’s all.  Microsoft is huge and powerful, and I think for that reason alone many people (especially aspiring competition) resent Microsoft–they project onto the company a "bully" mentality that actually isn’t there.  Diplomatic efforts, I think, will help improve this image, but you’ll always have your naysayers who dislike it just because it’s the giant.  

    I think perhaps it’s human nature to root for the underdog, whether it’s a country or a company.  

    I was *not* trying to get into a political discussion though!  

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    I didn’t think you were : ) Even if it were just a few people, I think your point was valid.

  13. Heather,

    I want to thank you for your blog entries like this one.  It makes my entries look short by comparison, and that’s saying something!

    There are many sides to Microsoft.  As a former channel guy, I can say that what is in the video isn’t the side of Microsoft we see out in the field.

    I also agree, however, that there hasn’t been (up until now) an effort to show, for lack of a better term, the heart of Microsoft.

  14. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, I think it is really tough to capture that essence and communicate it well. Definitely hope it’s something we get better at over time.

    And I didn’t realize how long that blog post was until just now!