Email campaign politics: Microsoft goes negative

By Kip Kniskern | Posted February 2, 2012 12 comments

putting people firstHere in the United States, we’re in the early stages of a presidential campaign season, and, as usual, the ads are going negative.  Newt Gingrich just lost a big primary election in Florida, largely, he believes, because of the negative ad campaign run against him by Mitt Romney.  “The 2012 Republican presidential campaign is ugly and likely to get uglier, because going negative works”, the Modesto Bee says, and indeed, for Romney, it seems to have had a major effect on the Florida primary.

Cue Microsoft.  Perhaps taking note of what’s been a well known tactic of campaign politics for years, Microsoft this week has gone on the offensive with a campaign that seeks not so much to promote Hotmail and Office 365, but to attack Google and Gmail.

Yesterday, Microsoft took out full page ads in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today, slamming Google’s changes to its privacy policies, and inviting users to switch to Hotmail or Office 365.  They also released a video, featuring the “Gmail Man”, doing much the same thing:

The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.

And today, Corporate VP of Communications for Microsoft Frank X. Shaw blogged about the ads and slung a bit more mud in Google’s direction, saying:

As they did yesterday, Google is going to continue to muddy the water here by saying that they offer a variety of privacy controls, and you can use “as much or as little Google as you’d like.”

If you are willing to:

1. Endure the headache of creating and managing multiple dummy accounts

2. Use separate browsers to segregate your communications, social, and video log-ins

3. Sign in and out of your accounts throughout the day to de-couple specific activities as needed.

Or, you can simply switch to Hotmail or Office 365. That sounds a whole lot easier to me. Take a closer look and decide for yourself. Smile

Shaw, of course, is no stranger to mixing it up with competitors, and has been known to get into “slapfights” over Twitter.  This latest campaign pitting Hotmail and Office 365 against Gmail is seemingly part of a larger effort on Microsoft’s part to learn from their political campaign brethren and go negative.

For its part, Google responded yesterday to the newspaper ads, seeking to dispel “myths” and taking a couple of potshots of its own.

The question is, will it work?  Some comments on the Gmail Man YouTube page don’t seem to think so.  SRakash says:

To Microsoft: Dont promote Your Product by showing what the problem is with others products, Promote it by showing whats GOOD in YOUR products!

and bhowarth chimes in:

This video is simply hypocritical and another example of how Microsoft has horrible marketing.

So, what do you think?  Does going negative work?  Do you think Microsoft is making valid points, or are they “simply hypocritical”?  Are you encouraged, or offended, by the recent attacks on Google?

To Microsoft: Dont promote Your Product by showing what the problem is with others products, Promote it by showing whats GOOD in YOUR products! To Microsoft: Dont promote Your Product by showing what the problem is with others products, Promote it by showing whats GOOD in YOUR products!

Posted February 2nd, 2012 at 10:55 am
Category: News
Tags: Hotmail
  • Nnsignup

    What is hypocrital about the GMail man video?  Office365 doesn’t do target advertising based off your email.  In fact, it doesn’t have advertising at all.

  • Nnsignup

    What is hypocrital about the GMail man video?  Office365 doesn’t do target advertising based off your email.  In fact, it doesn’t have advertising at all.

  • john

    And again Microsoft is hit with a double standard. Apple creates a negative ad series that runs for years to extremely high praise, and then Microsoft puts out one video and we get this article, cherry picking negative comments on a YouTube page to try to make its point.

    Microsoft is overwhelmingly positive in its ad campaigns and it should not be a big deal when it comes out with an attack ad every once a while, especially when said ad is spot on. 

  • john

    And again Microsoft is hit with a double standard. Apple creates a negative ad series that runs for years to extremely high praise, and then Microsoft puts out one video and we get this article, cherry picking negative comments on a YouTube page to try to make its point.

    Microsoft is overwhelmingly positive in its ad campaigns and it should not be a big deal when it comes out with an attack ad every once a while, especially when said ad is spot on. 

  • tk

    They have to rebrand Hotmail to get marketshare back from Gmail (in the US, Hotmail is last in marketshare, and dropping fast).

    Hotmail has an image problem.  If they don’t fix that, Gmail will still keep on attracting young users.

    • nima Tayebi

      According to which ranking? If you are talking about marketing image it is like saying Windows has a image problem. Even if it is behind Gmail in US (according to you) the brand awareness is something that cannot be achieved easily. Just look at the resources microsoft put to have Bing brand awareness the past several years. Remember that Hotmail was named as best web app of 2011 by PC Magazine, it was not without a reason.

  • tk

    They have to rebrand Hotmail to get marketshare back from Gmail (in the US, Hotmail is last in marketshare, and dropping fast).

    Hotmail has an image problem.  If they don’t fix that, Gmail will still keep on attracting young users.

    • nimatra

      According to which ranking? If you are talking about marketing image it is like saying Windows has a image problem. Even if it is behind Gmail in US (according to you) the brand awareness is something that cannot be achieved easily. Just look at the resources microsoft put to have Bing brand awareness the past several years. Remember that Hotmail was named as best web app of 2011 by PC Magazine, it was not without a reason.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=849020400 Archis Gore

    I can understand their frustration, but there’s one person at Microsoft who explained it best when I heard him speak – Qi Liu (President of Bing). I’m paraphrasing here: “Everytime you deliver a substandard product, and ask people to use it, you are taking a loan on your credibility. That’s perfectly fine so long as you’re prepared to pay it back with interest.”

    I think Hotmail not getting a “fair” chance is understandable given how many fair chances people took on that service over the last five years. People tried to use Hotmail/Skydrive for years when the loan was drawn: “trust us, because it gets better”. It was never repaid – the services didn’t get any better (until recently).

    I do think Hotmail can get people back. But there really isn’t a ‘killer feature’ they have that compels people to talk about Hotmail in a daily conversation. The good news is, there isn’t really any major lack of feature, or annoyance that makes people leave either. Having a roughly equal parity with Gmail, I see nothing wrong in a negative ad-campaign. I doubt the end-user cares much for the moral or ethical implications of an ad. If they like Hotmail, they will stay.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=849020400 Archis Gore

    I can understand their frustration, but there’s one person at Microsoft who explained it best when I heard him speak – Qi Liu (President of Bing). I’m paraphrasing here: “Everytime you deliver a substandard product, and ask people to use it, you are taking a loan on your credibility. That’s perfectly fine so long as you’re prepared to pay it back with interest.”

    I think Hotmail not getting a “fair” chance is understandable given how many fair chances people took on that service over the last five years. People tried to use Hotmail/Skydrive for years when the loan was drawn: “trust us, because it gets better”. It was never repaid – the services didn’t get any better (until recently).

    I do think Hotmail can get people back. But there really isn’t a ‘killer feature’ they have that compels people to talk about Hotmail in a daily conversation. The good news is, there isn’t really any major lack of feature, or annoyance that makes people leave either. Having a roughly equal parity with Gmail, I see nothing wrong in a negative ad-campaign. I doubt the end-user cares much for the moral or ethical implications of an ad. If they like Hotmail, they will stay.

  • Jnffarrell

    Taking a page from Murdock’s playbook, Balmer piles on Google with old negative PR. The K-Street crowd goes wild!

  • Jnffarrell

    Taking a page from Murdock’s playbook, Balmer piles on Google with old negative PR. The K-Street crowd goes wild!