Don't Get as Soft as Microsoft

Thursday, 24 Dec 2009 11:23 AM

By Jon Friedman

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Think of this item as a public service announcement for 2010, folks, if you want Americans to be on your side. If you would like investors to buy shares of your stock — or your company's wares at the local Walmart — read this carefully.

In the new year, what will matter the most to determine the success of a person's or a company's brand is simple: Who, or what, has The Buzz?

Buzz is hard to pin down. In fact, it is probably easier to identify companies that used to have it.

Consider a cautionary tale known as Microsoft. Bill Gates' brainchild was the darling of Wall Street and the envy of America. (Who among us wasn't jealous of those yuppie Microsoft millionaires?)

The Redmond, Wash.-behemoth was a creature of the 20th century, through and through, which is not a compliment. The company seems to represent something obsolete and disposable. Who wants to identify with Microsoft anymore? It seems so. . . 20th century, right?

Microsoft is, as much as anything, a shining example of how quickly you can lose your edge, in the public's mind, because you become linked to yesterday's technology. The best way to have Buzz is to make sure people identify you with the 21st century. If consumers believe you are digital-savvy, you are well on your way to attaining a hip image.

Watch and learn, corporate America. This could be you, if you aren't careful.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch. Click here to read his most recent column.

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