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Michael Dix

Michael Dix
goes west with microsoft
by Jocelyne Henri
September 30, 2002

Michael Dix has so many passions that itís hard to believe he actually managed to make a choice. But one day, he put down his guitar, forgot about his years singing in his college band Artistic Feet, played his last hand of poker, and devoted his career to branding and technology.

"I first got involved in marketing and the Internet in 1994, helping the publishing industry wrestle with emerging new media," says Michael. From there, Dix went on to China where he worked for the News Corporation, and oversaw the creation of a Chinese language web service, dealing with marketing, technical production, and content.

 
 

"With that job, I was getting close to branding," he continues. "I began to understand the complexities of building a brand and translating marketing concepts into a radically different environment."

Back in New York, Michael spent almost five years at branding agency Siegelgale, as global director of interactive, and today, with his black curly hair, smart blue eyes and deep voice, 34-year-old Michael Dix is not only one of the most eligible single guys in Seattle, he's also "Director, Office Brand Engagement" at Microsoft.

"Siegelgale was the perfect training for my current job," says Dix. "There, I came to love branding as a storytelling tool." Getting pros to agree on a definition of branding is as easy as herding overly verbose cats. At Siegelgale, it's about digging into a brand's heritage to find its "voice" which then gets communicated to consumers and employees around the world. Dix has a very simple way of putting it: "Branding is finding what the real essence of something is. When defined clearly, a brand promise can function as a lens for evaluating and guiding all related activities. It's the roadmap for marketing efforts."

Enter Microsoft. After being named the second most valuable brand in the world in 2001 by brand identity firm Interbrand, the technology giant started to hire experts such as Dix to nurture its brand.

Working at Microsoft, Michael gets to concentrate his attention on managing the branding and marketing of a family of products across all platforms of communications for a specific audience. The rules of the game are fairly simple. First, you're assigned an audience to focus on. In Dix's case, this audience consists of "Knowledge Workers," a broad way to designate all end-users of technology in a business environment. Second, youíre made responsible for the definition and the management of the Microsoft products used by this audience.

How do you do this? "I try to position this family of products in the marketplace, while rationalizing its architecture from a branding point of view," explains Dix. Then comes the "engagement" part. Dix leads the coordination of all the marketing activities engaged around these products, making sure that all packaging, PR, advertising, direct marketing, events, and merchandising build on each one to create a clear, cohesive and forceful set of stories. "It's very much like internal consulting," explains Dix. "My job is to step back and get a sense for where the gaps, contradictions or unrealized connections are to then persuade my colleagues to consider new ideas. I try to convince everyone around me that they're making brand decisions."

So why leave a "real" consulting job at an agency? "I've always wondered what it would be like to work on managing a single brand for a long time," explains Dix. "And Microsoft is particularly fascinating to me. It offers such a wide range of products and services, from Tablet PCs to Smart Phones, Office and the Xbox. You find all levels of branding challenges under one roof, and we actually have the means to make a difference on the market."

"Ö and I love Seattle," concludes Michael. So much for the East Coast.

 
  
Jocelyne Henri is a branding specialist who worked at Siegelgale and d/g* in New York for the past 6 years. She recently moved to Paris, her hometown, and currently writes and consults on French and international brands.
     
 
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