The Soul of a Brand: 5 Questions With Microsoft Brand VP Kathleen Hall

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The first Brandemonium conference and festival took over downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, from Oct. 11-14. The so-called “SXSW for Branding” sparked the imagination of attendees and locals with immersive events and activations, along with keynote speakers including Google President of Brand Solutions Kirk Perry, Seth Godin, Target EVP CMO Rick Gomez, former Procter & Gamble Chief Marketing Officer Jim Stengel and many other marketing luminaries—including Kathleen Hall, ‎Corporate Vice President-Brand, Advertising and Research for Microsoft.

Hall is responsible for stewardship and activation of the Microsoft corporate brand, creating world-class advertising and messaging to consumers globally, and delivering strategic, fact-based customer insights that drive Microsoft’s business decisions. She is also a champion for Diversity and Inclusion for the Marketing Group at Microsoft and is a member of the Ad Council’s Board of Directors. “When you have different points of view and thinking, work gets better because the world is diverse,” says Hall.

Kathleen Hall - Corporate Vice President of Brand, Advertising and ResearchIn her keynote address at Brandemonium, Hall shared how a couple of years ago, Microsoft was in danger of becoming “too” corporate, disconnected and even irrelevant to consumers. The company needed to make a radical shift and turn the conversation to openness and innovation, from rational to emotional.

Some bold bets (including Super Bowl ads such as 2014’s “Empowering” with NFL pro turned ALS hero Steve Gleason and this year’s girl power #MakeWhatsNext STEM spot) and strategic shifts balanced data-driven research with gutsy decisions. The responses, internally and externally, confirmed to Microsoft that people want brands to engage and contribute to a higher mission—one that inspires innovation and using its platform for good in a committed, authentic way.

Continuing the conversation on the brand transformation at one of the largest tech companies in the world, Hall tells brandchannel Editor-in-Chief Shirley Brady how Microsoft has been on a journey to find the true essence of its brand. Hall and colleagues knew that success was about more than product differentiation—brand equity was key. While Microsoft was a product-driven company, a more horizontal approach to the brand could increase emotional connections with target audiences across its portfolio of brands and its corporate brand.

Hall shares insights into the evolution of Microsoft by recalibrating and finding its soul. For example, by fostering diversity internally and with agency partners, making inclusiveness and equality a priority has rekindled Microsoft’s creativity and solidified the sense of purpose that’s core to the company’s DNA.

Watch their conversation below, and click here for more from Brandemonium 2017.

This article first appeared in www.brandchannel.com

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