5 Questions for Jeff Bell, Corporate Vice President of Global Marketing, Microsoft Corp.
Jeff Bell is responsible for worldwide marketing strategies for Microsoft's Xbox and Games for Windows businesses. His team focuses on Microsoft Game Studios games; the Xbox and Games for Windows platforms and brands; Xbox Live; global marketing promotions; and customer relationship management. Bell joined the software giant in June from DaimlerChrysler, where he was vice president of product strategy for the Chrysler Group. In that post, he was largely credited with helping to revitalize the Jeep and Chrysler brands and for pioneering Chrysler's video game and online marketing strategies. Bell was one of MediaPost's 2005 Online All Stars and was an 2006 OMMA Awards judge.
You made a big change going from DaimlerChrysler to Microsoft. Tell us about your new gig.
>My new position is in Microsoft's interactive entertainment business, which is led by Peter Moore. Our team manages the Xbox and Games for Windows brands, including all marketing messages and media strategy, events, and promotions. We manage Microsoft Games Studios launches, like the upcoming "Gears of War," "Viva Piñata," and next year's "Halo 3." We also oversee the Xbox Live service, including Marketplace and Arcade.
The automotive and technology industries are completely different from gaming. What are you learning from the tech culture, and what do you think you brought from the auto world that Microsoft can use right now?
>There are striking similarities between the auto industry and gaming in that they both design, engineer, manufacture, market, sell, and service. But there's a big difference, because Xbox is both a brand promise and it is a marketing vehicle. We sell hardware, [Xbox] Live subscriptions, video games, downloads of games, music, and video, and advertising within this ecosystem. We use the Live service to communicate with our members. We partner to promote other products and services to Xbox Live members.
At Daimler, you were known for innovation in terms of digital media and marketing. At Microsoft, evangelizing about digital media doesn't seem to be as necessary; people there get it. So what are the challenges or vexing issues you've identified in deploying unique digital marketing campaigns in the arena you're now in?
>Microsoft is competent and innovative in so many fields. The key challenge is in coordination. First and foremost, we must tell the Xbox brand story. The Xbox brand positioning is Play, Create, Be Real, and Unite. Xbox is a rebel with a cause. We don't tell you what cause to pursue, but we empower you to pursue it. Second, we need to coordinate the many interactive areas in a best-in-class manner. Xbox.com and Xbox Live above- and below-the-line creative all need to be better integrated within a common measurement system which is responsive and anticipatory. This will be our focus: to master the art and science of marketing Xbox products and services.
What do you think is inhibiting growth in digital marketing?
>In two words, legacy systems. There are significant costs associated with uprooting the existing customer database, installing new Web farms to host everything, common architecture and applications, and measurement systems. The other element that cannot be overlooked is the natural resistance to change. The advertising partners do television. The direct marketing partner does mail. The Internet partner does the Web. Getting it all into a seamless and consistent consumer experience is no small task. Using it and practicing to become world-class is even harder. Guess it's time for us to start!
If you weren't in your present position, what would you most like to do?
>Write for MediaPost! Oh, you won't give me a job? I would probably teach at a liberal arts college, like my alma mater, Kenyon College. I would have to bone up on Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Machiavelli to teach the philosophy of history. The alternative would be to teach business, with an emphasis on brands and marketing.