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Microsoft Retail Store Proposal Leaked: 124 Pages of Execu-Speak

Last week Gizmodo published a leaked proposal (32MB PDF) from marketing agency Lippincott detailing plans for Microsoft’s (s msft) upcoming brick-and-morter retail stores. It makes for mind-numbing reading, running at a mammoth 124 pages of (mostly) brain-freezing execu-speak.

I’m glad I don’t work in Marketing. It’s a troubled, stressful world where there’s no such thing as a “lie” and the customer is considered little more than an uninformed, paranoid bag of walking money. Marketing execs rabbit incessantly about “managing expectations” or “steering brand awareness” and other essentially meaningless buzz-phrases. Either it’s subtle genius, or howling bum-gravy.

Here are a few of the “highlights:”

  • Customer experience seems to be high on the agenda, though geared toward Emily, a hypothetical customer broadly categorized as one of three types: Basic Communicator, Productive Connector and Escapist.
  • “Reconsideration of the Microsoft brand by consumers” — speaks for itself.
  • NikeTown, AT&T (s att), Sony, Nokia and Apple (s aapl) are acknowledged as providing retail/customer service benchmarks that Microsoft could learn from or aspire to.
  • A Digital Media Wall is planned that will span the length of the store wall. There are lots of design mockups of what might appear on it. Check out the proposal for details.
  • Windows 7, PCTV and Windows Mobile will also get their own dedicated stages.
  • The stages will get their own dedicated Microsoft Surface Tables.

There’s a lot more in there besides these few points. Here are a few of the visualizations. No prizes for spotting similarities with the Apple Store. (But, to be fair, how many ways are there to design a retail store that sells computers and software?)

Proposed Windows 7 Stage
Proposed Windows 7 Stage
Here it's called the Guru Bar. In the proposal it's referred to as the Answer Bar. Doesn't take a genius to figure out what it is...
Here it's called the Guru Bar. In the proposal it's called the Answer Bar.
If you squint, this looks like an Apple store. What are the odds?!
If you squint, this looks like an Apple store. What are the odds?!

Bing or MSN - same difference

I found this one odd. Buried in the proposal is a chart that explains which sort of customers use Microsoft’s various services. Bing is said to be for “Search Explorers” and “Search Productives.” MSN is for “Information Seekers” and “Functional Organizers.” Frankly, I’m failing to see how these are truly distinct, different things?

Microsoft was quick to post a comment on the Gizmondo website, saying:

“As a part of our process in briefing creative agencies, we shared some early prototypes and concepts of our retail store plans. No final decisions have been made. As we previously announced, we are on track to open retail stores this Fall.”

I wish Microsoft every success in their Retail stores. I’ll happily visit them to see what techy goodness is on offer. But for what is supposed to be a proposal that should make me want to run out and start building the first Microsoft Store with my own two hands, the language in this document leaves me cold.

“The brand vision: realizing potential. The value proposition for the retail offering and experience is: inclusive exuberance.”

Inclusive Exuberance? Seriously?

OK, I know I’ll be flamed for my criticism. But look — if you think this sort of language is not a screaming insult to human intelligence and dignity… well, then, you’re probably already in Marketing.

For the rest of us looking forward to seeing what these new stores have to offer, we can only hope they’re not as cynical, “corporate” and soulless as this document manages to be!

22 Responses to “Microsoft Retail Store Proposal Leaked: 124 Pages of Execu-Speak”

  1. Finally a place where I can at last find a store that sells Windows and has a bunch of PCs sitting around showing a screensaver. I’m happy that a little niche company like Microsoft will finally be able to get its product out there where it can be seen.

    But really — I wonder if the staff at this ‘marketing’ firm will get fired because of the embarrassing leak of something of this magnitude, the shoddy English/spelling/grammar or the fact that they can’t even spell ‘Project Natal’ correctly?

  2. Steve W

    Wait a minute! Give credit where credit is due!

    First, Microsoft invented Surface. Now Microsoft is building a showcase for Surface. Don’t think of a Microsoft stores as a place to sell Windows and Office. Think of it as a place to show off a revolutionary marketing concept: Surface!

    Yes, Microsoft is stealing from Apple, but what is it that they are really stealing? They are stealing the idea that: if you have a revolutionary product that requires vision to sell and existing retailers aren’t up to the task, then build your own stores and sell it yourself. Best Buy and CompUSA were not very good at promoting the “different” that is the Macintosh. Solution: the Apple Stores. So far, no one has really embraced the Microsoft Surface, and created the “killer app”. Solution: the Microsoft Stores. Apple had something that drew people to their stores on day one, and that continues to draw: “insanely great” products, in their words. I doubt that Microsoft will be able to draw people in to see Surface. They will need that “killer app”.

    It’s a classic chicken-egg problem. You need a venue to showcase ideas, and you need ideas to draw people to the venue. In addition, you need a continuing stream of fresh ideas to keep people coming back. Is Surface “all that” Microsoft thinks it is or can be. Fortunately, for Microsoft, they have money to gamble – unlike Apple past, which almost had to bet the bank on every play. They even have the capital to draw people into their store once. If Surface works like Microsoft hopes, Microsoft could end up with Apple’s “problem”: people copying them. Difference is, that’s exactly what Microsoft wants, lots of companies building stores utilizing Surface.

  3. gregor

    “But, to be fair, how many ways are there to design a retail store that sells computers and software?”

    Apple found a new way of designing the retail store. It would be nice to see Microsoft find another way, rather than just copying Apple’s lead.

    The stores are fundamentally different– Apple sells hardware, and Microsoft sells software. Apple stores sell M$ software, probably M$ will have some samples of Apple hardware in their store– Macs can run Windows, after all.

    I think the gurus are doomed.

  4. I like the fact they’ve even went so far as to make all the laptops white like the old MacBook. Very classy.

    I dont really understand why Microsoft wants to get into this. All this will achieve is Windows users will have somewhere to go to complain/hopefully get their borked system fixed/get a refund/lose the will to live.

    They will spend more time fixing peoples problems than selling new products, or should I say confounding peoples problems.

  5. spoonbender

    The ‘legal speak’ is terrible. I`m just interested to see what microsoft will do. If its anything like the zune, all the stores will close within six months. I mean what does ‘welcome to the social’ mean ? Its pure gibberish. Honestly, the zune sucks. Theres nothing else to say really.

  6. Haberjr

    Guru bar. A guru exists in an area where there is great uncertainty and no knowledge. You then look for someone who claims to know this area, and you blindly follow this person. In such an area there is no science, there is just the guru you believe in. As a follower, you don’t need to think, just follow the guru. Sounds like the 1984 apple commercial. Apparently this is what you need if you live in the windows world.

    How clever of Apple to go for Genius bar. A genius is someone with great skill, originality and exceptional intellectual ability. That sounds like the world of Apple.

  7. TheMacAdvocate

    Simply another derivative spigot from M$ from which billions will squirt while their core monopoly businesses languish. Long live Ballmer!

  8. I think the Microsoft stores will be important to watch play out. Primarily I think they will fail and be expensive. My theory is that there will be such a demand for support the labour costs will explode, and if you were a Microsoft shareholder watching a decline would you be happy about this?

    My guess is that this underscores the potential end of Balmer and may become a very pivotal part in Microsoft’s future.

  9. I’m surprised they even bothered hiring someone to mock up these drawings, they clearly just took pictures of the Apple stores and digitized them lol. It’s good to know not only Gates likes to copy idea’s, he seems to have found his hand puppet (Ballmer) that can do the same. I waiting for the article which points out how “innovative” the new MS stores are…. Guru Bar? Really…

  10. Matt Rix

    I think my favourite thing in on page 120 of the pdf under “Fee paid events”: Private Birthday Parties

    I can’t even imagine who’d want to have a birthday party at the Microsoft Store… even with a bunch of 360s set up it’d be awful.