How Windows 10 reveals a more emotive side to Microsoft’s marketing

As Microsoft prepares to launch Windows 10 tomorrow (29 July), Marketing Week caught up with its corporate vice president of global advertising and media, Kathleen Hall, on how the marketing for the new operating system reveals the tech giant’s shift to a consumer rather than a product-led approach and shuns the “sameness” prevalent in the tech market.


At midnight tonight (29 July) Microsoft will release Windows 10, its new operating system. It includes a new browser Windows Edge, universal apps that run across devices including phones, PCs and Xbox, and the wider availability of voice command tool Cortana – among other key revamps and upgrades.

An accompanying ad titled “The future starts now” shows how children won’t need to “remember passwords” or “obsess about security” because they will grow up with Windows 10.

It is evidence of a move toward emotive advertising for the tech company and a move away from “falling in love with its own stuff”, according to Hall. She said the launch is “about what Windows 10 represents to people in terms of their potential and how they can achieve the things they want to achieve”.

Presenting the potential of Windows 10 to people externally also prompted changes internally at Microsoft under CEO Satya Nadella, who was appointed in February last year. Nadella sees the launch as a way to solve some of the problems of the past and to ensure Microsoft returns to being an innovative and creative company.

Marketing Week caught up with Hall on how the Windows 10 campaign is aiding that mission towards innovation, how it raised the profile and importance of marketing at Microsoft and why Nadella has been key to that change, and how the campaign shuns the “sameness” of other tech launches.

What has been the focus in the run up to the launch of Windows 10?

Culturally at Microsoft we are really focusing on our new vision, mission and new CEO. That is a big part of the focus internally so the continued quest for innovation and innovative products, things like [virtual reality product] HoloLens, will continue.

Is it hard to focus on the culture as well as having the pressure of Windows 10 coming out?

You would think so but it’s about practising what you preach as you go along and there has been a lot of effort. Satya [has] a different style of leadership, a different approach to things, and in every meeting even under the stress of launch we are trying to instil the new values and approach.

There will be more listening versus talking and more inclusive and diverse opinions including marketing, which is great in an engineering driven company.

What has driven the change in including marketing in decision-making?

It has been a big part of the evolution at Microsoft and one of the reasons I was attracted to the job was the recognition that marketing plays a significant role in how people perceive and adopt products. Microsoft recognised that and became more marketing orientated, fighting the engineering DNA and realising it’s an important part of success in the market place.

“Being better storytellers and being more human is a big part of the new culture.”

Kathleen Hall, corporate vice president global advertising and media, Microsoft

How is the Windows 10 campaign different from Microsoft’s past strategy and what channels are you focusing on?

We used to fall in love with our own stuff sometimes and talk about features without talking about what it means to people and that is a lesson that we have learned. It’s not about us it’s about the people that use our products.

You can expect a more emotional approach and to be about our consumers and what they do with our products and not about us and the shiny things we make.

The campaign is multimedia because we still see a place for a rich media mix and the value of each media type doing different things for us. Within digital, we have shifted a little bit, we are away from the standard banner type experiences and more into rich media and mobile, especially as it takes a big role in the shopping process.

How do you differentiate from competitors’ tech launches?

It’s really hard to differentiate, you see a lot of product-centric advertising in our category, beautiful, rich and almost car-like product shots, I think that worked for a while but there gets to be a sameness in the market.

You always need to change it up because you need to do what is right for the category. A lot of us are working off the same research, so what sells and what doesn’t, but [you have to] present it in a way that is unique and different. We are always looking for the next way to do that.

Is there any change in the target market you are trying to reach with the new operating system?

The thing with Windows is we are so pervasive, we have a billion users so it is hard to say there is a target market. It is important for Windows 7 users to upgrade to 10 because it’s the platform that will take them forward in a lot of ways, it’s an integration of the touch interface and type interface, it’s a new browser experience. It’s a broad appeal.

Windows 10 is the entry way to all of the things that are Microsoft going forward, such as getting the HoloLens experience and the new browser Microsoft Edge. You have to be on it to get all the goodies in the kingdom.

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