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Marketer of the Year: Mich Mathews, Senior VP-central marketing group, Microsoft Corp.

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Under Mich Mathews' direction, Microsoft Corp.'s marketing organization has undergone a radical transformation over the past four years, becoming a partner with engineering and much more open to customers, business partners, employees and the public.

The result has been an elevation of the Microsoft brand to the top of several brand studies and strong fiscal results.

For the fiscal fourth quarter ended June 30, Microsoft reported record revenue of $11.80 billion, up 16% from the year-earlier period. For its fiscal year ended June 30, the company posted revenue of $44.28 billion, up 11%. Net income for the year was $12.60 billion, up nearly 3%.

This year, Mathews had several marketing challenges, including launching Windows Live, SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005, as well as building awareness for Windows Mobile and Microsoft Dynamics, business software aimed at the midmarket. In addition, her team is gearing up for the launch of Windows Vista, a new operating system scheduled to launch in January.

Mathews also helped lead the March launch of "People Ready Business," a $500 million global ad campaign to communicate how Microsoft helps businesses solve problems.

"We continue to build out the [marketing] profession so that we have more marketers exclusively focusing their time on creating markets and building new products with engineering," said Mathews, who has been at Microsoft for 14 years.

When she took on her current position as senior VP-central marketing group, she met with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to define the role that marketing would play at Microsoft and create ways to improve marketing performance.

Ballmer's directive was to make marketing a much more central function at the company, helping drive new products and working much more closely with engineering.

To achieve this, Mathews helped create a new group called Marketing@Microsoft, responsible for creating best practices for marketing and recruiting and training marketing professionals. She also helped lead a reorganization of Microsoft's entire marketing operation, integrating previously separate disciplines into a central global marketing group.

The result has been a new teamwork approach to marketing and much more emphasis on the customer.

"By giving marketing a seat at the table with engineering from the very beginning of the product development process, we've fundamentally changed the way that we create products and bring them to market," Mathews said.

"And by taking an outside-in approach, starting with our customers, our marketing has had a greater impact. Not only is this helping with our business results, it is also helping turn Microsoft into a destination for marketers."

One of Mathews' goals this year was to use more digital marketing to communicate with customers in relevant ways.

"We created tools and campaigns that demonstrated that we were really listening to our customers, identifying their needs and reaching out to them in a way that was truly helpful," she said.

For example, the company created an online evaluation center, Virtual Labs, that allows customers to test products in a virtual environment from anywhere in the world.

It also did extensive customer research through Rapid Research, an online market research program that captures data in real time through a panel of users on Microsoft.com.

Mathews said she is pleased with how the marketing group has met its challenges so far in 2006, building on the launch of SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005. "We also built awareness for our mobility business and, as a result, revenue has grown threefold," she said.

Other accomplishments this year include building brand awareness for Microsoft Dynamics and raising overall brand awareness of Microsoft Corp. The company ranked No. 1 in the Millward Brown BrandZ survey, No. 1 in the Financial Times Global 500 brand study, and No. 2 in Interbrand/BusinessWeek Best Global Brands ranking.

Now, Mathews and her marketing team are gearing up for the launch of Windows Vista, Microsoft's newest operating software.

She said a big brand challenge will be trying to demonstrate to customers why they should upgrade from Windows XP, which she calls a "great product."

"We are taking a very deliberate, segmented approach and breaking out our focus and campaigns accordingly," Mathews said.

Specifically, Microsoft is targeting early adopters, engaging hardware and software partners, doing preliminary work with business partners and retailers, and working to create buzz activities to garner "mind share."

"We're digging deep and using all our marketing chutzpah, including clever digital marketing, while also doing great storytelling," Mathews said. —Kate Maddox

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