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Microsoft, You Need to Develop Your Customer Intuition

Cnet News reports on some classic customer intuition gaffs on the part of Microsoft.

Speaking at the International Geographical Union congress in Glasgow on Wednesday, Microsoft's top man in its geopolitical strategy team, Tom Edwards, revealed how one of the biggest companies in the world managed to offend one of the biggest countries in the world with a software slip-up.

When coloring in 800,000 pixels on a map of India, Microsoft colored eight of them a different shade of green to represent the disputed Kashmiri territory. The difference in greens meant Kashmir was shown as non-Indian, and the product was promptly banned in India. Microsoft was left to recall all 200,000 copies of the offending Windows 95 operating system software to try and heal the diplomatic wounds. "It cost millions," Edwards said.

Another social blunder from Microsoft saw chanting of the Koran used as a soundtrack for a computer game and led to great offence to the Saudi Arabia government. The company later issued a new version of the game without the chanting, while keeping the previous editions in circulation because U.S. staff thought the slip wouldn't be spotted, but the Saudi government banned the game and demanded an apology. Microsoft then withdrew the game.

The software giant managed to further offend the Saudis by creating another game in which Muslim warriors turned churches into mosques. That game was also withdrawn.

Microsoft has also managed to upset women and entire countries. A Spanish-language version of Windows XP, destined for Latin American markets, asked users to select their gender between "not specified," "male" or "bitch," because of an unfortunate error in translation.[link]

In these days of globalism, multiculturalism and political correctness it's imperative to develop an in depth understanding of your customers and markets. Knowing local traditions, geography, languages and customs is essential. Large companies like Microsoft need to have good local advisors who can help them navigate these complicated waters. Even smaller companies need to be careful in crafting their internet marketing. When you are addressing a particular industry there is significant value in "going native" and working with people who know the industry from the inside out. When companies wonder about the outsourcing of their marketing communications and their email marketing programs they need to know that working with the best freelance writers who are deeply connected within their target industry establishes credibility and expert advisor status for their company.

August 19, 2004 in Blog Outsourcing, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, bulk email marketing, business credibility, Business Marketing, Business newsletter, Business publications, Business relationships | Permalink


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