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27 June 2007

Microsoft is Not Making a Difference?

Microsoft is running a new ad campaign called I'm Making a Difference and there is something tricky about it. It promises to share "a portion" of the ad revenue from MSN messenger installations that will help support fighting AIDS or feeding the hungry through inserting a code in the user name, and start chatting. It just feels like they are trying to buy new users. Here's why:

Firstly, it is a psychological game. Yes, it plays you by inferring if you do not use this, you don't have a heart. Never mind that some people prefer to donate dollars rather than cents, or some people prefer to use what they feel to be better clients. "But Microsoft is trying to help!" Then why don't they just donate? Well, actually, they do, but it is all tax write offs, or coupons or some other things. It doesn't cost them anything. Not even here. However, in this case they have tied the 'donation' to you using their services, making you 'responsible' for it. If you don't use their services (because, lets say you feel other services are superior), they will make the donation anyway. I mean, it is a tax write off.

Secondly, it gives you a false sense you are doing something big. Honestly, since when is chatting with friends doing anything more than maintaining said friendship? Think about it for a second; who gets what here? You get maintained friendship (assuming your friends fall for this too), which you can already get without Microsoft's services. The charity you pick allegedly (we will give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt here) gets the money they would get anyway (again, it is a tax write off, and Microsoft likes to look good). Microsoft gets more users, and, presumably, more money from more users using. So if you don't use Microsoft's services, truthfully, only Microsoft loses out. Thus, only Microsoft gains here.

Thirdly, it challenges you to "put your money where your mouth is." This is a straw man argument and a non sequitur (for those who are lost by those terms, "straw man argument" means it appears to be a solid argument, but has no merit, and "non sequitur" means literally in Latin 'it does not follow' or, the sequence isn't correct). Chatting by Microsoft's services does not prove or disprove you are a nice or mean person, have or don't have a heart. Sadly, it does not mean you are doing anything more than falling for Microsoft's cheap marketing trick.

Honestly, Americans are truly making a difference, where it matters, without resorting to chatting.

So why not use Microsoft's chat? Well, a company that resorts to marketing gimmicks like this to try to win the hearts (and fingers) of people who otherwise aren't interested, obviously has something in mind other than competing fairly against their competition. If Microsoft wanted to get it's new services out, making them desirable to the users is a much better option. Instead they resort to marketing tricks to make you feel guilty that you aren't using their services.

Guilt is bad and should not be used as a way to compete.

OK, so maybe the argument isn't flawless, and maybe there is a lot left to be desired with it, but seeing a company attempting to play a guilt trip on otherwise smart people really torques me the wrong way. It did when I first saw the ads, and it does again over a month later when I again see the ads are still running.

This post was written by Justin Swatsenbarg from Tech and other things. If you are interested in contributing to the thinking process and become a guest writer on The Thinking Blog, find out more information here and be my guest!

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