Microsoft — The Nerd’s’Brand
Even being nerdy can be a powerful differentiator. Microsoft is a brand that is differentiated by its super-nerdy computer geek image. It can’t be helped. The founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, have strong geeky personalities themselves. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Bill Gates made being a nerd almost a cool thing. Almost, And the fact that he is one of the richest persons in the world doesn’t hurt either.
Having a nerdy personality is great for a brand like Microsoft. No matter what you say about nerds, they are usually smarter than you are in things like computer science and software engineering. And that is also the perception people have of them. So, for a software brand, having a nerdy personality can actually help. We do not know about you but if a software engineer walks into our office looking as trendy as Richard Branson, we would probably not have a great deal of confidence in his ability. He may be a great software engineer but at a glance we would think otherwise. Creative Technotogy has a Microsoft kind of personality. During one branding workshop for Singapore IT companies at the very cosy Changi Village Hotel, a former senior manager at Creative Technology said he left the company after many years there because he felt that it makes really great products for Creative Technology people When asked what he meant, he said that the products were very engineering-driven and outperformed everything else on the market, but they were not user-friendly or hip enough for the consumer market. He also said that if you are an engineer, a Creative Technology MP3 player is fantastic but for the rest of the people out there, an iPod might be a better choice.
We could not agree more. We have no doubt that Creative Technology is a superb engineering company but its brand personality is not suited to the consumer market We think that the image it projects is that of an engineer rather than a hip teenager. That might be great when it comes to selling components like sound cards to computer manufacturers, but it probably does not help much in marketing consumer products. It was very successful when it was selling to other engineering companies — to other “nerdy” types. What the former Creative Technology senior manager was trying to say is that you have to be very smart to use a Creative Technology product but most of us would prefer to use our quota of smartness on other things.
Microsoft is now trying to get into the consumer market as well, with products like Xbox (gaming) and Zune (MP3 players). It will probably not be as successful as Sony with the PlayStation or Apple with the Pod because of its personality. However, the good thing is that it has not put the Microsoft brand on these products so there is still a chance of it being able to carve out some market share.