The WIRED cover story heralds the new Microsoft.

Windows 10 gets two free hits on late-night TV.

Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, piles on the praise.

Microsoft finds a receptive Wall Street audience.

Right the ship by rewriting the script


Being a technology giant can be awesome. Giants get a great view of the road ahead and make a huge impact wherever they go. But technology is supposed to be fast, agile, and innovative—and at the beginning of the 2010s, those weren’t the words being used to describe the biggest giant on the block: Microsoft. How to right the ship? Rather than try to come off as some spunky upstart, it took advantage of the secret weapon of giants everywhere: momentum.

New Chapter, New CEO

That momentum started to shift with the advent of Microsoft's new CEO, Satya Nadella. As his star began to rise, Microsoft Communications turned his confidence and humility into attributes that represented the entire brand. But at the same time, a comprehensive communications evaluation revealed a consistent pattern: there were too many messages. And they weren’t always on brand.

Write stories, not press releases.

So Microsoft made a major, disciplined shift: Say less. Keep it visual. Keep it on brand. Talk about things you can prove. Tell human stories. And avoid chest thumping like the plague.

Communications that measure up

At the same time, the company invested in the way it measured the effectiveness of its communications. This made it easy to see the media descriptors that news outlets were using to talk about the company, (e.g., “ambitious,” “strategic,” “new direction,” etc.) reflecting Nadella’s new leadership. To sustain this momentum, Microsoft used smart measurement tools for insight into how to insert itself into the hottest innovation conversations.

Putting the oomph back into the product launch

The HoloLens launch generated a huge amount of excitement. At the same time, a WIRED magazine cover story came out that seemed to echo the industry’s sentiment: that Microsoft was moving forward in a way that people had stopped expecting. And when Windows 10 launched, the brand made sure all the heavy-hitting influencers—from emerging YouTube review stars to Jimmy Fallon—were hearing the Microsoft resurgence story. This led to initial demand nearly 40 times greater than expected. Not a bad problem to have.

“Guess What? Microsoft’s Baaaack!”—USA Today

Things like the WIRED cover and the Windows 10 launch gave people permission to look at the company differently. Microsoft seized the opportunity to surprise people by revealing a company full of visionary leaders and awesomely cool technology. It fostered a mutually beneficial conversation with its customers, the media, and even its competitors.

So now there’s a fast, agile, and innovative giant on the move. With Time Magazine heralding, “Here’s Why Microsoft is Killing It Now”, and Barron’s announcing, “Microsoft Fiscal Year Ending With a Roar”, and the pièce de résistance from Business Insider declaring, “I’m Ready to Love Windows Again.” This giant’s got its swagger back.

A big shift
"Say less. Keep it visual. Keep it on brand. Talk about things you can prove. Tell human stories. And avoid chest thumping like the plague."
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