Microsoft wanted to showcase how the use of their Cloud offering can help businesses be more efficient and effective in an environment that was enticing for the primary audience. The problem is, the Cloud marketplace has grown increasingly cluttered, and there is little differentiation between brands. Amazon Web Services is a formidable competitor, and Google, IBM, Salesforce and others are equally active in market.
In short, it has become increasingly difficult for the audience - Enterprise Business and IT Decision Makers - to discern what each cloud provider stands for and where the truly differentiated value lies.
Our challenge was to differentiate Microsoft Cloud by positioning the 'brand' as THE leader in the cloud marketplace.
As leaders in their fields, Business Decision Makers (BDMs) and IT Decision Makers (ITDMs) seek strategic alliances with like-minded leaders who can take their businesses to the next level.The ubiquity of Cloud solutions is forcing providers to be clear on what they stand for, and the most flexible, connected, and nimble cloud solution for enterprise are streaking ahead as a desired solution. Ultimately, BDMs/ITDMs seek cloud providers that give them a clear, competitive advantage.
To seek an edge with this B2B audience in this cluttered, undifferentiated market, we went further with our insights. We pushed past the professional motivations of BDMs and ITDMs and surfaced a personal passion point that would lend itself to business content integration, and strongly resonate with potential consumers: a passion for golf (played golf 12+ days in last year : BDM i139 and ITDM i183).
We designed a B2B communications strategy that struck a unique balance between leveraging the audience's personal passion for golf, while demonstrating the professional benefits of Microsoft Cloud. Establishing this narrative would ultimately showcase how our audience, as like-minded leaders, can take their businesses to the next level with Microsoft Cloud.
Microsoft and Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Custom Studios partnered to create a unique branded content program which combined data and Microsoft Cloud technologies to impact and transform the game of golf. Sports organizations and professionals recognize the exponential growth in data and are seeking entirely new ways to analyze it, allowing Microsoft to help golf pros, amateurs and course designers take the game to a new level. We called it "Transforming The Course."
To bring the program to life, Microsoft and WSJ Custom Studios partnered with Gil Hanse, renowned golf course architect, to reimagine the process of golf course design. Microsoft Cloud enabled the digital transformation of this process, which includes near infinite variables across diverse data sets; topography, weather patterns, engineering logistics, player preferences, and complex budgets.
Microsoft created a cloud-based tool which helped Hanse aggregate all the data sources he typically considers throughout the complex process of designing a golf course, revealing the key attributes of over 13,000 golf courses in North America. Hanse uses the tool to correlate data in ways previously not possible, which provides new insights for his golf course designs.
The Microsoft and WSJ Custom Studios partnership captured this fascinating process. The tool and the storytelling of the journey launched within a WSJ custom content hub, and the story was distributed via custom interactive infographics, co-branded media, social amplification and targeted rich media which drove engagement with Microsoft Cloud.
There was additional print promotion via skybox unit on the cover of the Journal to tease readers and pique their interest, as well as a first-to-market floating spread unit in the technology section. This edition of the WSJ were also personally delivered to Microsoft Ignite Conference attendees – which plays host to thousands of IT Decision Makers - with a Microsoft branded cover wrap to galvanize interest in the branded content online.
Combining the audience's passion for sports and data, Microsoft and WSJ Custom Studios collaborated to create a unique branded content program that brought together diverse data sets and Microsoft Cloud technologies to impact and transform the game of golf.
Leveraging pre & post methodology to measure brand perception, Transforming The Course successfully delivered results, including over 26% brand lift among both audiences across three key attributes for Microsoft Cloud:
"A Leader In Cloud Solutions for Businesses":
− a 36% increase among BDMs
− a 26% increase among ITDMs
"Can meet my evolving business needs":
− a 37% increase among BDMs
− a 32% increase among ITDMs
"Is a technologically innovative company":
− a 30% increase among BDMs
− a 27% increase among ITDMs
Additional surveys recorded 92% of BDMs and 100% of ITDMs claiming to take an action after seeing the campaign. 93% of BDMs and 96% of ITDMs agree that the campaign makes them feel that Microsoft is a trailblazer in enterprise-based cloud solutions (strongly/somewhat agree).
From precision targeting to driving perception change and creating positive action, the research findings suggest that Microsoft's Transforming the Course achieved considerable success.
Special note regarding perception point lift: Based on past measurement on Cloud across ITDMs and BDMs, observed percentage point lifts in brand consideration are significant and noteworthy. Typical measurement of changes over time are observed between 1 to 5 percentage point shifts; with lifts exceeding 2% more difficult to achieve across an evergreen campaign and needs both "new" news and innovation.
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