Borg engages in ‘suicide marketing’

Very smart piece by Mickey Kaus on Slate about the Borg’s evil scheme to goose XP for all it’s worth by threatening to inflict Vista on the world at any minute. You can see it here (though you have to scroll down to see it). Kaus says the Borg “cultivate(s) the image of a big, clumsy and greedy organization.”

Key word here: Clumsy. See, that’s what really scares the shit out of people about the Borg. People can (sort of) deal with the idea of an organization that is big and has too much power, so long as they have some confidence in the giant organization’s competence. (Hence the general admiration of Google. And us.) But what people can’t tolerate is a big giant robot that keeps tripping over its own big giant robot feet and threatening to topple over and wipe out entire neighborhoods.

This is the biggest challenge that Borgflacks and Borgspinners face and it’s one they keep trying to address by planting stories like this one in Fortune last summer where BorgTards acted ten kinds of humble about how Microsoft made all these mistakes in China but eventually learned the error of its ways. Don’t think for a minute that Fortune came up this idea. No. It was dreamed up by a team of Borgflacks at Waggener Edstrom and spoonfed to Fortune. The entire point of the exercise was to start transforming the “clumsy giant” image into the “clever, nimble, still-able-to-learn-and-therefore-not-so-scary giant.”

This anyway was Katie’s analysis at the time and trust me, she’s the best in the business when it comes to “shaping corporate narratives,” which is what people call this. (If only because it sounds so much better than “getting paid to lie.”)

But I digress. Point of the Mickey Kaus piece about Microsoft is that Vista was never intended to be an actual product — rather, it exists simply to scare the shit out of people and boost sales of XP. I’d never thought of it that way but he kind of has a point. Money quote:

“First, you screw up your major product, replacing it with a fancier version that is widely derided and universally regarded as inferior to its main competitor. But–key point–you keep selling the old, popular product. Then you announce that you’ll stop selling the popular product on June 30. This causes a predictable–and highly profitable–surge in sales. (“Last chance to buy Windows XP!”) You pocket the millions from those sales, but then at the last minute announce a reprieve. Bowing to customer demand you’ll keep selling XP–until you need another little boost in the bottom line, when you will announce once again that you’re killing it after a date certain. Last last chance! Really. We mean it this time! Then another reprieve, and another deadline, and another surge of panic buying, etc.–on and on, seemingly ad infinitum (at least if you are a monopoly player like Microsoft).”