Lessons Learned From Microsoft's "People_Ready" Ad
I'm a Mac guy, and while there's a part of me that giggles with glee at the stumbling and bumbling that's going on at Microsoft, I'll do my best to retain a professional demeanor while I pick apart a recent bit of marketing fluff that they've produced.

Microsoft has two major products that everyone knows about and everyone probably touches everyday: Windows and Office.

But their marketing leaves a lot to be desired. It's a pretty good example of how not to do things.

The trouble is that their stock is dropping. What's more, they have a major product release on the horizon, the next gen of Windows called Vista, that has suffered greatly in the tech press. A combination of feature atrophy and backpedaling on the release date has gotten the techie crowd folding their arms and sitting on their wallets.

Not that the techie crowd is Microsoft's cuddliest group of fans.

But, don't feel sorry for them quite yet. Their profits are still huge, (they made just over $1 billion per quarter in profits last quarter) so they have lots of money to throw at the problem before things get dire.

Their biggest problem is that their only competitor of any significance is themselves. They want you to abandon the previous version of their own software and buy the new version. That's the way they're going to make their next dollar.

So there are question marks in Microsoft's future. But if that's the case, then why are their efforts at marketing their products falling well short of the mark?

John Gruber of Daring Fireball recently wrote an article about an ad that MS ran in the 5/22 issue of the New Yorker. He posted a photo of the ad and transcribed the copy, and then asked a pretty significant question when it comes to marketing a technology product: "What the hell does any of this even mean?"

Welcome to the people_ready business.

In a people-ready business, people make it happen. People, ready with software. When you give your people tools that connect, inform, and empower them, they’re ready. Ready to collaborate with partners, suppliers, and customers. Ready to streamline the supply chain, beat impossible deadlines, and develop ideas that can sway the course of industry. Ready to build a successful business: a people-ready business. Microsoft. Software for the people-ready business. To learn more, visit

If you can get through the paragraph, it's not difficult to see Microsoft's intent, but there's nothing that's driving a call to action. Gruber calls this ad "timid", and he's right. The gist is that Microsoft products will empower your employees, getting them ready to work. And, hey, that's a good thing. It's a benefit.

But "our employees will be more ready" doesn't quite provide the fire you want to light under your target audience. With ad copy, you want to use language that will get people tapping their feet because they can't buy it fast enough. Have a message. Say it clearly. That's the goal. Did your eyes glaze over when you read that big ol' chunk of copy? Mine did. I would have skipped it entirely if I wasn't in analysis-mode.

Take a look at the Microsoft piece; how many times does the copywriter use the word "ready"? "People"? What about the "Ready to something, something, and something" pattern? Repetition is powerful...when used correctly. But here, the sentences all start to look the same. Too many commas, too many ideas strung together, too much repetition. Blah. Skip it.

Are your customers skipping your content because it doesn't grab their attention? Does your copy motivate your customers to buy your product?

Confidence Game -- [Daring Fireball]