Microsoft’s Mojave Experiment: Proves Vista is Great or "Vista" is An Anchor?

July 31, 2008 at 7:14 am | Posted in Microsoft | 1 Comment

Have you seen the Mojave Experiment?  Let me sum it up for you: It demonstrates that consumers are more favorable to Microsoft Vista when its name is hidden.

The Dana Epp blog entry that brought this to my attention uses this as proof of Microsoft’s superiority (“So imagine the surprise when the users found out it was actually Vista that they were using! I love it”). But Microsoft is acting just like the techo-geeks they are accused of being if they are ecstatic about this one, bragging about technology while missing the real point.

The most powerful asset of a company like Apple or Microsoft is its brand.  People can come and go, designers can get a hot hand or go cold for a while, but look at Apple from a brand point of view.  The Apple mystique and cool attracts the right employees and sugar coats their products’ entry into the marketplace.  What this experiment proves is how bad the brand equity of the “Vista” name is despite oodles of dollars in marketing.  And, by proxy, how low the brand equity of “Windows” is right now too.  Judging by the clips on this website, I’d go so far as to say Vista has negative brand equity.  Negative brand equity acts as a tax that takes a bite out of all potential sales of the product.  What is the rate of this hidden tax on Vista?  How much extra does Microsoft have to spend in marketing to just to get to parity with a no-name product, and why is it willing to pay that tax?

Microsoft should be ashamed, not cheering, when it sees its agents playing games like “if we only had Microsoft’s money and resources but not its name, see what we could do!”

What’s more surprising is that this site was created by Bradley and Montgomery, which is an agency that seems to specialize in brand management (including tactics like “brand subterfuge”).  I asked Microsoft’s PR firm about their relationship with B&M and was told B&M was contracted to film a focus group due to “research we’d done indicating that a large number of negative perceptions were from people who had never seen Windows Vista, let alone used it.”  Fair enough, and I can see technically minded folks at Microsoft liking this as proof their technical prowess is not at fault.  But a company specializing in brand management turnarounds should know better than to post clips proving their client’s product suffers from negative brand equity.  Customers may not care, but those with a stake in the brand (investors, partners, resellers, retailers) may not be pleased with what this shows about the state of its stewardship.

I asked Microsoft’s PR firm about the drivers and message behind this initiative and was told:

Our goal with the Mojave Experiment was to have people who were making decisions about Windows Vista based on hearsay to realize that they should be judging the operating system for themselves. And that’s what the videos illustrate – that people’s perceptions can change once they see Windows Vista for themselves.

If this is just a small minority of potential customers, then fine, create targeted messages like this (although it’s tough to keep a message targeted on the Internet where everyone can see it).  If this is a growing minority though, serious cost/benefit analysis needs to be done to evaluate whether the “Windows” brand name is a vehicle or an anchor.

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  1. The thing that bugged me about this story was that they showed _video_ of “mohave” to show off its cool factor. Showing _video_ of an operating system and claiming that people like it doesn’t fly for me.

    Sit them in front of it, don’t tell them what the OS is and THEN tell me if the experience is happy or not.

    I’ve heard people say they like the experience, other that hate it, and other that are unconcerned. But I tend to believe the negative comments because that’s what I’m expecting. Change something that is so core to the experience of using my PC, and it had better be significantly more USABLE. I don’t really care if it is “prettier,” and that’s what I perceive of Vista.

    Note: My only experience is on a Server 2008 box, where I am doing some testing of other software.


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