Thursday, July 9, 2009

The “Bolt-On.” Microsoft Internet Explorer 8: A Browser For The Better

This is what’s called a “bolt-on.”

In its efforts to get “hip,” Microsoft has been running all kinds of ads. And it’s well-known that Crispin has the Windows portion of the business (with their “I’m a PC” work). In the past, Crispin has famously launched multiple campaigns for a single brand (Burger King, VW and Microsoft come to mind, not to mention when they had Mini).

So when you see an ad for the new Microsoft browser that’s pretty damn strange, you might think, “Was that Crispin?” I did.

Well, the answer is no. This campaign is from a shop called Bradley and Montgomery ( And it gets stranger.

Guess who directed it? Bobcat Goldthwait (aka, Bobcat Goldthwait, Commercial Director).

But this blog post isn’t about any of that.

It’s about the “bolt-on.”

By “bolt-on,” I’m talking about a campaign that has an auxiliary component – another spot, website, sidecar of a campaign to go along with it - one with a charitable spin.

In perhaps one of the least strategic examples of this, Internet Explorer 8 is doing good by donating to Feeding America. (Is it me, or have they become the cause-du-jour lately?)

They say, "One in eight Americans struggle to find enough to eat. Download Internet Explorer 8 and we’ll donate 8 meals to help feed the hungry." It's a Browser for the Better. And apparently the connection is ... the number eight?

If Microsoft Internet Explorer wants to do some good, how about putting computers in inner-city schools? Or something – anything – to do with technology, or enabling access to information, or privacy issues? Feeding the hungry is 100% worthy, and 0% strategic.

Don’t get me wrong. I love it when the hungry get fed. But this choice made a lot more sense when Quaker Oats did it with Goodby and Edelman. Sure, that was another “bolt-on” campaign, but one that was a lot more strategic and closely tied to their main campaign.

Complicating matters even further, is the main campaign inventing fake ailments that IE 8 cures. Okay, that's not entirely original, but still funny. So, if you're going to add a charitable component, maybe you could help cure a REAL ailment. Hm? Just a thought.

Bolt-ons aren't bad. But this one is a missed opportunity to do something that's strategically aligned with what the brand stands for. When choosing to do some good, that's always a solid place to start. Decide what the brand/campaign stands for. Then the choice of what charity to support reinforces the core identity of the brand.

(Thank you Brandon Murphy, Director of Strategic Planning at my agency, for coining the term “bolt-on.” You can read his blog HERE.) I'm reading: The “Bolt-On.” Microsoft Internet Explorer 8: A Browser For The BetterTweet this!

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