The Inside Story Of How Microsoft Built The Windows 8 Brand | Brand Architecture |

To launch its latest OS, Microsoft hired more design and marketing talent than most companies could fathom. We spoke with Wolff Olins, coordinators of the rebranding, about the overarching strategy.


Remember those horrendous Windows commercials with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld? Running in late 2008, the ads proved symbolic of Microsoft’s own failings at the time: What were they about? Was Microsoft Vista? Was Microsoft tablets? Could they be on phones anymore? While Apple and Google were reinventing themselves for the mobile era, Microsoft was making commercials about nothing.


Today, the stakes of Microsoft’s identity are even higher. They need to leverage their Windows 8 OS to retain a foothold on PCs and find that lost chunk of the mobile market through Windows Phone 8. The Surface has to take off. The inevitable Xbox 720 needs to be as relevant as the Xbox 360. And it all starts with Metro, the design language that holds everything together like glue.


About a year ago, Microsoft tapped Wolff Olins to handle branding on Windows 8, the OS that would spill over into every other device Microsoft had planned. Branding their crown-jewel operating system is as much of an affiliation with Microsoft as Wolff Olins can disclose, but from a product architecture standpoint, the Windows 8 brand would naturally be bigger than Windows 8 itself. It would have to redefine Microsoft and its products as competitors--the OS would be the “tip of a spear” in a new, design-forward line of products, some of which haven’t even been announced yet.


And on top of that? Wolff Olins wanted staying power. They wanted an identity that would last longer than a few Seinfeld spots.


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