It’s no secret that Microsoft is often on my list as examples of big corporations still wrapped in an old way of thinking under the guise of faux consciousness. And I haven’t been overly impressed with Microsoft’s innovation platform or social responsibility efforts… until now. With the launch of their new decision engine (and the hefty 7-figure advertising budget that goes with it), bada BING, they finally seem to be getting it. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
At first I was skeptical of an ad spend in the multi-millions to promote Bing, but now that they’re using a sizable portion of it to give back, Mr. Gates is starting to sway me. Plus, their integration with video and entertainment experiences also hints at things to come. Could the pocket-protector wearing PC geek protecting his piggy bank finally be re-emerging as the charismatic captain of the football team with the coolness factor and a philanthropic spirit?
The “Browser for the Better” campaign officially launched today, hinged on downloads of Internet Explorer 8. For every download, Microsoft will donate the financial equivalent of eight meals to Feeding America’s network of 206 local food banks, which supplies food to more than 25 million Americans each year. This is already a step in the right direction from a cause marketing standpoint by equating their financial donation to actual meals. This helps demonstrate the impact that they are able to make, and allows users to connect with the cause more meaningfully than some arbitrary dollar amount. If I download IE8, I will provide eight meals for starving children and families. Now, that’s powerful.
Sure, Microsoft gets increased exposure, and thousands of users to download their latest browser, but the cause is the draw here, not a shameless plug for Internet Explorer. After all, the offering in itself is not likely to send the masses clamoring for the latest version of bug-ridden software. And let’s be real, a majority of users will download to help the cause and never even launch the browser. To me, that demonstrates further proof that Microsoft has invested an authentic $1-million dollar commitment to the cause itself for what is likely only a small percentage of IE8 users they’ll get out of the deal. But being a brand dedicated to goodwill will likely also help them significantly in the long-run. Dare I say there’s a sustainability element to this initiative?
Immersive experiences also play a key role in the campaign, once again, overshadowing the browser – and brand – itself. User interaction and hungry families become the focus as opposed to putting the brand center stage (a “look at me” approach that is synonymous with Microsoft’s more typical in-your-face marketing). In this scenario, Microsoft merely becomes the benefactor of the experience, through which users are likely to relate back to their shiny new browser as they engage in them (assuming the videos are as compelling and memorable as they claim). This one with on-screen superboy Dean Cain (below) is a tad bland but it did hold my viewing attention, and hey, I am sharing it with all of you readers, so +1 for Microsoft on the viral front.
To kick off the campaign, Microsoft is staging stunts today at New York City’s Time Warner Center and San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza. Artists at each location will use food cans to sculpt the likenesses of the Empire State Building and Golden Gate Bridge. They will also release more in the video series starring Dean Cain and directed by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait that will highlight Internet Explorer 8 demos in an entertaining way. Yes, it does put IE8 inthe spotlight, but from a usage standpoint vs. a promotional one. I see a lot of well thought out tactics in this cause-driven coup. The tell tale factor will be in the execution, but I’m buying into the strategy so far.