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Microsoft Corp., which has ranked No. 2 on Interbrand/BusinessWeek's annual report on the world's top brands since 1999-right behind Coca-Cola each year-has established itself as an enterprise software company.

"About 10 years ago, when people were looking at the Microsoft brand, it probably wouldn't have been one of the first brands they would think of as being enterprise-ready," said Mich Mathews, senior VP-central marketing group at Microsoft. "Now, we are a major player."

Microsoft defines "enterprise ready" as the ability to deliver software that provides reliability, security, scalability and performance that the largest organizations require and expect.

The shift in brand reputation has been due in large part to marketing efforts that position Microsoft products-and the company in general-as being able to deliver on this enterprise proposition.

Internally, Microsoft has implemented new marketing processes that incorporate research on perceptions it is trying to change.

"Before we spend $1 on advertising, we do a thorough analysis on understanding what it takes to change perceptions with, say, an IT decision-maker," Mathews said.

Externally, Microsoft has launched new campaigns and marketing efforts that focus on changing perceptions in key areas such as security, software development and manageability of its platform and applications.

"If you look at the origins of Microsoft, it began with personal computing," said Matt Ross, president of McCann Worldgroup, San Francisco, and CEO-global Microsoft account for McCann, the company's agency of record.

"Now, we're talking about things like corporate databases and CRM systems for managing customer databases-systems that span an organization," Ross said.

"The role of marketing is to help communicate the reality of what the products and services are."

This year, McCann developed several campaigns for Microsoft products. For security, Microsoft launched a campaign that drove IT users to a Web site, where they could use an online risk assessment tool to detect security threats.

For Visual Studio, McCann created an online campaign with viral components that drove developers to an online community where they could share ideas.

For its new version of Office 2003, Microsoft launched a campaign called "New World of Work," which shows how the workplace has changed and demonstrates how Microsoft products meet the needs of today's worker.

Mathews said the key factor for Microsoft's brand shift is simple: "It was our products," she said. "It's the experience users are having with the products every day. Are they easy to use, and are they easy to manage? That is how the Microsoft brand has largely been established."

-Kate Maddox

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