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 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, Sony, Nokia and Apple 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!

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