Microsoft, Harley-Davidson, and Brand Passion

A few years ago, I went to Daytona Bike Week.

The first time I saw it, I did a double-take. A guy had the word "Harley" tattooed on one arm and "Davidson" on the other.

Talk about brand loyalty.

 Harley doesn't send letters to bikers with guidelines about proper "context" for their logo. They are thrilled to have "raving fans" who take a megaphone and shout out their excitement for their product.

What more could you ask for?

And you know who your most passionate advocates can be? Your employees (thanks Andy!).

So, today I get a forward that cc'd Corporate Brand Support at Microsoft and it made me cringe a bit. [names removed]

 Bottom line, some guy wants to use the following logo set in his email signature:


He gets a note back telling him to refer to

and advice specific to email signatures at:

Windows Vista…


He is told that he can:

 use the brand signatures in your email signature as long as you follow the established system (e.g. Vista and Dynamics examples). Please do not combine brand signatures unless it’s for an approved cobranded effort, in which case, respective brand managers should approve.  

Look, I understand the value of a Brand, but an email signature is an opportunity for individual expression in much the same way that a tattoo on a biker's arm is.

If an employee (or heck even a partner) is really jazzed about Zune, Office, Vista, or Xbox and wants to put the logo in an email signature that will generate conversations with customers, then let 'em do it. Give employees, of all people, some latitude to express themselves as individuals.

We're not talking about an ad in the NYT or on CBS (as if those work, but that's another post), we're talking about making it easy and fun for employees and partners to spread the gospel, to get others excited, to start real, authentic conversations.

I just think we're missing the boat on this one. What kind of story are we telling when we have these types of rules?

Comments (4)
  1. Mark Ashton says:

    Well…maybe not. This is not a case of rules for the sake of rules. Do you really want to be the guy who is responsible for “helping” Microsoft lose trademarks for Windows or XBOX? While it may seem unreasonable, Microsoft is held the same legal standards as any other company when it comes to trademark law. Go figure If you miss-use the logos, it makes it easier for non-Microsoft people to miss-use them and ultimately puts the trademarks at risk.

    The guy who sent the email you posted to your blog (cute) noted that that there are ways to properly use logos in email signatures so it’s not like there’s a total prohibition. But creating a bizarre logo-soup email signature that combines 3 or 4 logos is not helpful and probably doesn’t impress your customers or patners.

    By the way, if you want to get the Windows flag tattooed on you’re a..rm you should fee free.  😉

  2. Mark says:

    I think you’ve missed the point.  The brand guidelines may seem like policing at the time, but the way they are being used in those email signatures is just bad…. it isn’t helping anything or enhancing the brand.  If it was a cool new way to use the brand, I could see why you are upset, but this is just an example of watering down the individual brands.  

    The use of the Blue Monster stuff is a more interesting argument……

  3. Sometimes you make mistakes, but when you do, what do you learn from them? I’ve gotten a fair amount

  4. When we talk about a "community" of partners and how we want them to market with us, we need to understand

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