There's one exception, however: Xbox. The marketing structure
for that brand seems to be the model for Microsoft's marketing
reorganization, which will shift power from a central group to
individual product teams. It's a key move at a critical time for
the tech giant, as products soon hitting the market will determine
if it has a future in mobile.
Robert Matthews, head of global consumer marketing for
Microsoft's interactive-entertainment division, leads the Xbox
marketing team. Arguably one of the company's most autonomous
groups, it is described as "the wild boys that do what they want to
do," by one executive close to Xbox. The renegade approach has been
met with great success, as TV ads from TwoFifteenMcCann score high
in awareness, call to action and understandability, according to
ABX's measurement. With its Kinect gesture controller, Xbox was the
top-selling game platform last year, according to NPD.
The companywide revamp will shift some accountability from
centralized marketing to product-focused business units, such as
Windows and Office, according to three executives familiar with
Microsoft. The goal is to reduce bottlenecks and redundant roles,
and Bloomberg Business Week has reported that the changes could
result in the elimination of hundreds of jobs. The move comes
months after Chris Capossela, a former marketer at Office, took
over for Mich Mathews as chief marketer.
"Part of Microsoft's challenge is reorienting itself to its
changing market position," said Sarah Rotman Epps, Forrester
Research senior analyst on consumer computing.
The biggest change is the threat from Apple, a famously product-centric
company that 's now Microsoft's biggest competitor in computing
across all devices.
Microsoft's plan to give greater marketing power to product
groups indicates a larger trend in which product people, often
engineers, are wielding more clout in -- and even rising to the top
of -- divisions. For example, in December, engineer Terry Myerson
took over as the head of the Windows Phone division and will
oversee all its marketing (see sidebar).
Oddly, while Microsoft is giving its product units more
marketing leeway, the notion of centralizing marketing is gaining
steam in the tech space. Apple, for example, is promoting its
products as a group because its phones, laptops and TVs can
communicate through common software. Such integration will also be
a selling point with Microsoft, through a central marketing group
that stands to shrink in coming months.
The "Family" holiday campaign that grouped Xbox, Office and
Windows Phone has demonstrated early resonance with consumers; one
ad for Office and Windows 7 was the No. 2 remembered spot last
month, according to Nielsen. Another took the No. 2 most-liked
ranking in November.