Microsoft’s Nadella Gets Down to Business with Marketing Shake-Up

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Satya Nadella has been the CEO of Microsoft for exactly one month and he’s already shaking up the ranks at the venerable tech brand. 

The company announced Monday that executive Tony Bates, who had been passed over for the CEO role, and Tami Reller, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer, would be leaving the company. While Reller’s departure means the loss of one of Microsoft’s top female executives, it signals a change in the company’s marketing and brand strategy.

That new outlook will be ushered in by Chris Capossela, an executive on the company’s marketing team who Nadella has promoted to EVP and CMO to oversee all marketing, and Mark Penn, the creator of Microsoft’s “Honestly” campaign (including the Google-tweaking “Scroogled” campaign), who was named Chief Strategy Officer. 

“He’s aggressive,” Mark Moerdler, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., said of Penn, according to Bloomberg. “Maybe this will add a little testosterone to the organization to counter the fact that Satya is more of a deep thinker.”[more]

Penn isn’t all brass knuckles, though. He also “helped develop less controversial ads like Microsoft’s first national Super Bowl commercial this year” that garnered much fanfare for its up-close look at how Microsoft’s technology applies to the world. With this new job, though, Penn won’t just have his hands in the marketing pot. He’ll also be involved in deciding what areas Microsoft should invest in and be part of the product leadership team, a source told Bloomberg.

Penn, a former political strategisst and no stranger to the spin machine, finds himself at the center of a debate among those that like his tactics and those that don’t. “Some see him as a thoughtful adviser who rubs hidebound colleagues the wrong way by presenting them with useful data on messaging and strategy that runs counter to their intuition,” the New York Times reports. “Others say he massages his research, conducted through the polling of consumers, to bolster his own preconceived ideas.” 

Either way, it looks like Nadella is in Penn’s corner. “I am looking forward to applying Mark’s unique skill set across a broader set of challenges facing the company, from new product ideas to helping shape the overall areas of strategic investment,” Nadella said, according to the Times.

At the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom conference this week, Microsoft’s EVP of applications and services, Qi Lu, outlined to analysts the direction that Nadella has set for the company, including creating greater value for the Microsoft brand. 

“Our entire organization is going through a profound change so that we can … have continuous development, continuous quality, continuous intelligence … continuous planning, driving all the new values for customers on a steady pace,” Lu said. “The most important to think that driving going forward, it would be a huge source of product innovation.” 

With Nadella’s sights set on cloud and mobile technology and Penn’s big push for customer data, Microsoft is bound to put out a product that consumers will clamor for. 

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