I am working on a brand new computer and I have now tried several times to change my Explorer home page. I want to use Google/ig, my new portal to all the things I care about on-line, including, of course, the Google search engine. Guess what? Microsoft won’t let me.
I have tried to make the change now for two days. I have tried every option available to me, and my browser always resets to msn.com. This problem was always a problem. In my experience it always took a few days for this setting "to take." (I understand that this is not how computers work, but I am not sophisticated enough to give you a more sophisticated account.)
Really, is this not saddest thing you have ever heard? Microsoft knows perfectly well that Google is the new home page/portal of choice. Have they now resorted to cheap tricks to prevent this from happening? How low can they go? How complete do they wish to make their humiliation? So far, they are well on course for "Laughing Stock," New Mexico.
Silicon Valley has never been the birthplace of great branding. But it is filled with lots of smart people. How bright do you have to be to understand that some consumers are going to resent this sort of thing? The rest of us (and eventually, the rest of them) are going to rethink who and what you are. If we’ve invested any "trust" or "good faith" in your brand, these we will cash in immediately.
I have been running the numbers anthropologically, consulting that is to say the cultural factors that need to be reckoned with here. The conclusion is clear. Short of having their physical liberty taken from them, there are few things that members of the 1st world dislike more intensely than being having their realm of personal choice narrowed or forced. They might go along in the short term. They will make a point of making you pay, in the long.
So, let’s engrave this in the marketing handbook, shall we. (You know, for those not bright enough to work it out for themselves.) Consumers are to be treated with respect and courtesy. They may not be coerced, constrained, or manipulated. There may be some small benefit in the short term. But the damage to the brand will be formidable.
Burning man? How about Burning brand. Just get everyone is those shiny cars they like to drive at Micrsoft and head for the Nevada desert. Construct some facsimile of the brand. Now, burn it down. Or, blow it up. Take brand equity and scatter to the four corners of the desert and drive your shiny cars home.
There is a punishment for bad marketing beyond the ridicule you visit on the corporation. Some of what you just destroyed in the desert was share holder value. Yes, I thought that might get your attention. Consumers? We don’t need no sticking consumers. We, Microsoft, has an immense installed base. But share holders? They are mobile, and you diminish them at your peril.
I have directed this criticism to Microsoft but it’s clear that there are several players who are equally offensive. Yahoo is apparently deeply implicated in adware mischief. Do need seek advantage by being tricky. Eventually, you will be found out.
Microsoft and Yahoo, it’s time to choose. You can be a bully. Or you can build brands. These are mutually exclusive activities.
Last night, we tuned in "My Name is Earl" and watched it jump the shark in the scene where Earl goes back to apologize to an old friend of highschool. What is clever in this show is entirely charming. What was broad was way too broad. I get, and admire, the marketing issue at issue here: can you capture a 90s sense of humor even as you capture something much broader, and there always was a common ground here. But you have to work them like those little side by side circus ponies. One was allowed to stray. (No cards or flowers, thank you; I think I’ll be fine.)
Post script II
I understand that one of the solutions for this Explorer problem is just to move to Mozilla and I did that some months ago. The use of the right click key, however, drove my crazy (I badly need to click and paste without interference) and it drove me home. "Home?" Microsoft, why it’s not home any longer. It’s a cheap motel I am looking forward to vacating as soon as possible. Especially, now that I know branding decisions are being made by a shifty looking fella who always orders lotto tickets and a tall boy way early in the morning. (Hey, if my competition were Google, I’d be cashing my Microsoft stock in for Lotto tickets, too.)