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Why Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 Marketing Campaign Works

By Colin Ryan

Industry News

Microsoft's newest browserIn recent weeks, Microsoft’s new Internet Explorer 9 has generated a lot of positive buzz. Some of this, of course, is due to the reviews of the browser itself, the majority of which have been glowing. The rest, however, is due to Microsoft’s uncharacteristically nimble advertising campaign for IE9. Instead of simply throwing their considerable money and weight behind the product as usual, Microsoft has completely rethought their marketing approach. Here are four reasons why it works.

1. It embraces its image. Microsoft could have downplayed Internet Explorer’s past reputation for being notoriously sluggish, cumbersome, and all-around uncool, instead fitting IE9 with a traditional “better than ever” campaign. By taking ownership of that infamy, however, Microsoft shows that they have perspective, that they understand why people were dissatisfied IE8 and what they really want from a browser. This, I think, will inspire more confidence that they’ve fixed the problems, which will undoubtedly lead more users to give IE9 a try.

2. It’s fun. Speaking of embracing one’s image, perhaps the best part of Microsoft’s IE9 campaign is The Browser You Loved To Hate, a microsite that pokes fun at both the shortcomings of previous versions and the nerds who so passionately railed against them. See, for instance, the ad above, in which one techie learns to embrace the new Internet Explorer. The video is surprisingly funny, which probably accounts for its over half a million hits. The site also features a number of witty (and easily sharable) charts and graphs, like this one about Twitter, which have been making their rounds.

3. It’s diversified. So far, Microsoft has shown a keen understanding of today’s web marketing environment, taking advantage of every medium to get the word out about IE9. That means not just a dedicated website for the browser (Beauty of the Web) and some television commercials, but also a YouTube channel, a Tumblr campaign (that’s right—The Browser You Loved to Hate is powered by Tumblr), and an integrated social media blitz, each element with a particular tone and for a particular cross section of Microsoft’s audience.

4. It targets the right people. Love it or hate it, Internet Explorer still has over 50 percent of the market share among Internet browsers. But who makes up this share? Corporate cube-dwellers, school systems, older users, basic and/or infrequent technology consumers, etc. Microsoft’s previous campaigns, including the ad above, were aimed at the latter group: people on a budget who weren’t “cool enough” for a Mac. Aside from the fact that this seems to insult Microsoft’s own users more than Apple’s, this doesn’t make a lot of sense—after all, these people are already using the product, and are unlikely to change anytime soon.

Instead, Microsoft needs to sell the real movers and shakers in the tech industry on IE9, and that’s exactly what the new marketing campaign aims to do. Developers. Tastemakers. Younger, more entrepreneurial, more creative users who use the web as a design platform. With “Amazing Sites” and “For Developers” tabs on its website and TV ads featuring words like “artistic,” Microsoft is appealing to these people by painting IE9 as a creative playground, instead of just a place to find funny cat videos.

Will Microsoft’s IE9 campaign pay off? Only time will tell, of course, but early reports are encouraging: Microsoft’s market share actually increased one percent in March, while both Chrome and Firefox slumped. If this shift continues, Internet Explorer might just cease to be the browser you love to hate, and become the browser you love to use.

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