by S. Manes & P. Andrews, Pages 238-240   Buy this book.

Under Shirley there was also a new push in marketing, spearheaded by Ballmer. The most visible mastermind was a new recruit who dated back to the waning days of the Towne era. A thirty-one year old marketeer on his way up, tall dapper, sun-loving Rowland Hanson was a veteran of Betty Crocker and Contadina and was currently making his mark at Neutrogena. He knew absolutely nothing about personal computers, he had absolutely no interest in them, he was getting ready to start his own business, and he was not about to listen to a headhunter’s suggestion that he take a day off to go up to rainy Seattle on a wild-goose chase. But somehow he found himself in the office of Bill Gates.

Hanson asked why Gates had any interest in him at all, considering he knew nothing about computers or software. “You know,” Gates told him, “the only difference between a dollar-an-ounce moisturizer and a forty dollar-an-ounce moisturizer is in the consumer’s mind. There is no technical difference in the moisturizers.”

Hanson was impressed.

“Well,” Gates went on, “I know that we will have the reality of the software. We will technically be the best software. But if people don’t believe it or people don’t recognize it, it won’t matter. While we’re on the leading edge of technology, we also have to be creating the right perception about our products and company, the right image. And right now I don’t think we’re doing that.”

On the way up to Seattle, Hanson had been thinking “NFW. No way am I going to take this job.” On the way back he was thinking, “You know, these guys are on to something.” His conversation with the master convincer had Hanson hooked.

Hanson’s courtship remarkably paralleled that of another marketing maven. John Sculley. Toward the end of 1982 Steve Jobs was beginning to recognize that to be successful, the Mac would have to appeal to people who didn’t already use computers and understand them. Apple would have to sell Macs like — well, like soft drinks. Sculley, a career Pepsi executive being groomed for chairman, was contacted by a headhunter about a search for a new chief executive at Apple. Sculley knew virtually nothing about computers –he had an Apple II+ but found it “more work to use than it was worth.” But he had liked to tinker with electronics as a kid. When he mentioned offhandedly he was going to meet with Steve Jobs, his nineteen-year-old daughter’s mouth dropped open: “You’re going to meet Steve Jobs?” she exclaimed. Sculley took note.

In a cat and mouse courtship over the next few months the two hit it off, the analytical, Ivy League corporate Sculley providing a perfect foil to Reed College drop out Jobs’s quicksilver intemperance and excitability. Still, despite millions of dollars on the table, Sculley was not convinced he wanted to work for Apple–until Jobs zinged him with the line “Do you want to spend the rest of you life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world.” It summed up the forty-two-year-old Sculley’s midlife crisis in one sentence; by May 1983–a month and a half before Towne was being shown the door at Microsoft–Sculley was at the helm of Apple.

Sugared water, scented water…Bill Gates didn’t want to change the world, he wanted to rule it. As a vice president, corporate communications, Hanson saw his job as positioning Microsoft and its products in the marketplace–as the $40-an-ounce brand. Hanson embarked on market research and discovered that influential core users relied far more heavily on editorial coverage in computer magazines than on advertisements. So while competitors such as Lotus and Ashton-Tate squandered resources on television ads–something Hanson rejected as too wasteful–Microsoft painstakingly went to work rebuilding its corporate image.

Hanson understood the value of public relations as well as anyone. His mentor at Neutrogena, Lloyd Cotsen, had built the company on a policy of influencing “opinion leaders”–dermatologists, beauty editors, people who wrote about skin care. Another of Hanson’s research studies was aimed at finding out how Microsoft was perceived among magazine editors–who were then carefully cultivated in the months that followed.

Not long after the redesign of the Microsoft corporate “look” to forest green packaging and the “bibbit” logo whose horizontal lines vaguely suggested IBM’s, Hanson discovered the look wasn’t working. On the strength of focus group research, Hanson switched to “friendlier” boxes, emphasizing people rather than merely the name of the product and coding color–red for Apple and Blue for IBM.

It was Hanson who killed the “multitool” name and cut a deal with David Bunnell’s PC World to enclose a sample disk of Microsoft Word in every subscription copy of the October 1983 issue–just the way cosmetics companies hawked their wares in women’s magazines. It was Hanson who pushed to make Microsoft a brand name by putting the corporate identity first and using a generic name for virtually every product. It wasn’t Word, it was Microsoft Word. It wasn’t Chart but Microsoft Chart. Had he been on board earlier, Multiplan would have been Microsoft Spreadsheet, and MS-DOS would have been Microsoft DOS, but he was too late for that. Hanson had to settle for ads reminding customers that Microsoft “designed the MS-DOS operating system that tells the IBM PC how to think.”

Hanson’s marketing efforts were about culminate in an amazing crescendo. Interface Manager wad dead; in its place was Windows. Although a strong contingent in the company actually preferred the name Interface Manager, Hanson tirelessly hammered away on the subject in e-mail to Gates. A product name should communicate a product feature, Hanson insisted: Windows was logical because windows were what you saw on the computer screen. An interface manager — come on, what was that? Bill Gates finally gave Windows the green light, barely in time to revise the PR material.