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Microsoft’s “Scroogled” campaign just the beginning, kitchen sink on the way

Microsoft’s “Scroogled” campaign just the beginning, kitchen sink on the way
While it was probably part of the big plan from the beginning, Microsoft is likely to turn up the heat on Google as it campaigns on all fronts, and keeps hitting at Google’s strength which is search.

There is a man behind the scenes pushing this campaign, and he is not some Madison Avenue type from New York. Mark Penn is his name, and his background is in political polling, campaigning and analyzing data to the nth-degree. Mr. Penn gained notoriety in Washington, DC circuits by organizing destructive efforts against enemies of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He was instrumental in President Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996. Very few political relationships last for any long period of time, and in the lens of that reality, Penn’s strategy is not for everyone.

The “Scroogled” campaign is only one piece of the strategy, but it is the most overt swing at Google search and its shopping service.  Penn is also behind the blind side-by-side comparisons that have popped up, challenging people to pick the best search for them.

How does a political operative translate to a marketing campaign? Quite well actually. Penn was made head of Microsoft’s “strategic and special projects” in August and his goal is to trip up Google at every opportunity. When those opportunities arise, the plan is then to exploit those potential gaffes by way of a flame-throwing commercial in mere hours. It gives Microsoft a political nimbleness that is not often seen in such strategic efforts like the one underway now, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, unified experience, search, and up soon will be the next Office.

Microsoft stands to gain from inquiring minds of the US and European Union governments who have been scrutinizing Google’s privacy policies and business practices, which could lead to action against Google. However, Microsoft is not waiting for a train that may not come, and that is Mark Penn’s focus. From the looks of things, he is just getting warmed up, “Google should be prepared for everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them,” according to a former colleague from Penn’s political days, “Actually, they should be prepared for the kitchen sink to be thrown at them, too.”

This effort reinforces what we ostensibly knew was coming from Microsoft. Bill Gates said it himself, “People will be pretty amazed about the energy Microsoft’s putting behind this new wave of products.”  That includes the marketing behind these new products. Love it or hate it, Microsoft is pulling out all the stops.

“The concept is to create a SWAT team to work with the product teams on some of their toughest problems,” said Mr. Penn in talking about the small organization he has put together, which consists of fewer than a dozen people, most of whom live in Washington, DC. Given the nature of what Penn is trying to accomplish, many of these team members are former political allies that know the nuances of operating a rhetorical flamethrower.

The first fruit of this fast moving team is the “Scroogled” campaign which was pieced together very quickly after Google made changes to its search results in its shopping service. They followed a political model which involved polling and quick production of a response to get the message out to users and potential customers.

Microsoft has played hardball before, notably going after Gmail. A company spokesman did admit however that Microsoft did not do too well challenging those “Get a Mac” commercials that Apple ran. As Bill Gates said though, there is a new energy to drive these new products and services, and Mark Penn is part of that drive.

To Microsoft’s credit, the company does not need to outright topple Google in a blitz of ads and campaigns. All Microsoft needs is to plant a seed of doubt, and results will root from there. If that requires a kitchen sink, we are sure that Microsoft has more than one.

sources: The New York Times via Neowin
photo: The New York Times

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