I knew it. I ####ing knew it. When Microsoft was making all those stupid announcements about DRM, used games, the online check-in, and so on, something just felt like this was not reality. A great number of people obviously felt some kind of disbelief, but I mean that I looked to the future and easily pictured Microsoft turning it around to paint this picture of being a company that "listens to the people" and "places more value on you, the customer, than anything else," and "is always striving to deliver the quality experience you've come to expect." That way, they get to look like pillars instead of pills. (I totally just thought that up.) I need to write things when I actually think about them instead of later, when my predictions have already come to pass. Welp.
Join me on a journey to 1984 — not the Orwellian robot world that Microsoft almost took us into, but the one that actually existed couple of decades ago. The Coca-Cola company had been watching sales slump year after year, despite being a market powerhouse for as long as anyone could remember. It seemed no amount of ad campaigns, marketing approaches, or packaging adjustments could pull Coke out of its downward spiral. Pepsi, meanwhile, was the choice of a new generation.
Out of options, Coca-Cola decided to change something within the cans instead, as The New Coke rolled into supermarkets and vending machines in 1985. The company had changed the age-old formula, and you know what happened? People. Were. Pissed. How dare they? How dare Coke change the formula the people had grown up with? Modern newscasters might say "This isn't the America I grew up in" were this to happen today, and then sarcastically thank Obama for it. In '85, drink aisles were filled with two things: consumer fury and unsold Coke.
"This isn't happening, happening, happening, happening, happening. It is!" -Bright Eyes
Coca-Cola had no choice but to return to the ways of old. The reaction was an instant, huge boost, which left both the roof and the floor forever raised. Its sales problems were over, thanks to what appeared to be a tremendous blunder. The New Coke is commonly looked upon as a marketing disaster, yet, consider the effects. Not only did it achieve the goal of getting Coca-Cola out of its sales valley, but it attached a ferocious nostalgia to its name. From this move, Coke gained a victory bigger than most marketing experts can even hope for, let alone predict. This has led many to speculate if the company saw the New Coke move as a win-win situation right from the beginning. If people like the New Coke, the company wins; if it backfires they demand the old stuff, the company wins; sales were already on the way down, so there wasn't much to lose.
One might say that the Xbox brand wasn't in the same danger as Coke was, but to look around at sales charts and gamer buzz, Sony has clearly been gaining momentum in recent years. PlayStation handily won two straight generations; no one is invincible, but a competitor like that should never be underestimated. Microsoft easily could have been trying a long shot here. It might not seem realistic or imaginable to you, but when you're the guy wearing the $6,000 suit, you'll try some drastic things to keep it that way.
That's the power of branding, my friends.