Microsoft’s brand judo

A couple years ago I wrote post here called Brand Judo (or, find your inner lemon) that was subsequently fashioned into an article for

In it, I described how the Japanese martial art of Judo—characterized by the principle of turning an opponent’s attack back against them—can be applied by marketers to help flip negative perceptions into positive (and memorable!) brand stories. The classic Volkswagen “Lemon” campaign is a prime example.

After writing the post, one thing became apparent. Brand judo by big brands is rare. It takes a lot of courage for a brand to step out in the open, face its flaws head on, and then work to bend those flaws into a favorable story.

Late last week, a video from Microsoft quickly made the rounds through our digital media team. The video, entitled “Do you know this guy?” depicts a young guy at a computer registering his hate for Internet Explorer every way possible: commenting on tech site reviews, posting on Facebook, tweeting, etc. But after a series of rapid-fire exchanges with Microsoft’s social media accounts (hitting back with new features / capabilities), the guy begins to change his tune.

Sort of.

In the end he tweets:

IE sucks… less.

The screen then reads:

Comebacks come in many shapes and sizes.

The video is part of a larger campaign called The Browser You Love to Hate.

Pretty bold. What big brand product has been beaten up more than Internet Exploder? It’s the veritable punching bag of the browser world. (Rightly so.)

But rather than continuing to fight IE’s negative perceptions, Microsoft has chosen to embrace them—and now owns them. And while it certainly won’t turn IE’s critics around overnight—there’s more than a few in this building—it did make us all laugh.

Which is to say that by making light of itself, and accepting our attacks in a positive way, Microsoft may have softened us up a bit…

Not a bad strategy in a fight.

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