Microsoft’s new Seinfeld & Bill Gates commercials have been widely panned. Presumably the first two salvos in a $300 Million ad campaign launched to soften and redefine Microsoft’s image, it would seem questionable whether years of consumer experience with Microsoft as the consummate powerbroker can be erased, regardless of the question of the ultimate quality/enjoyability of the ads.

Can two or more reasonably goofy and self-deprecating ads, which someone on a Silicon Alley Insider comment thread had smartly termed a "branding palate cleanser", overturn years of Windows support frustrations, forced upgrade paths, and general Microsoft bullying of all and sundry?

I’d say it’s doubtful:

1) Microsoft is seen as stodgy and corporate because, well, they are…

Analysts such as Henry Blodget had argued recently that Microsoft should simply acknowledge that they are much better at selling to the corporate world (after all even their Windows OS has been mostly sold to the PC Manufacturers rather than directly to the consumer), and concentrate on B2B while letting go off most of the comsumer space aspirations that have so far proved massively unprofitable to them (Zune, Live Search, etc.).

2) Microsoft has tried before to bring in "The Loyalist" archetype in its marketing (MS Office as your buddy brand at work, etc.), and it never really worked too well, because their association with "The Powerbroker" archetype is so entrenched. This latter fact BTW explains why they do so well in the B2B (Business-To-Business) realm, because "The Powerbroker" is something virtually every business person understands.

3) Trying to bring in "The Buddy" again in the form of "The Adventures of Seinfeld And Gates", alongside of "The Little Trickster" (with humor, irreverence, sleight of hand, etc.) via Seinfeld is ultimately no more likely to stick than before.

Typically companies have been using this archetype to add some delight (your Inner Child likes humor) to their otherwise "boring" products (e.g. insurers, see the GEICO Gecko, etc.). But these companies typically didn’t have strong existing identifications like Microsoft does.

Once again, it’s doubtful that Microsoft can shed the associations that have been forming in the consumers’ minds for about two decades. Just ask IBM: They’ve had a lot of little humorous ads out over the last few years (most recently with Disney characters drawn into corporate server room live action!).

So ask yourself: Do you think of IBM as hip and funny?

Once an imprint is burned in deeply, you’ll have a heck of a time getting it changed. Microsoft is proof that all the money in the world (which it undoubtably has) can’t move the mountain in people’s minds.

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