When an internal corporate video goes terribly wrong

This just goes to prove that a big budget does not guarantee you can make a purse from a sow’s ear.  Check out this internal (no doubt sales team motivating) video from Microsoft. Brace yourself — it really is that bad.

 

Of course, that might not be the whole story.  One version of the story is that Microsoft made this (according to an unidentified employee) as a joke.

Here’s the real lesson — in today’s world, you can’t really afford to be this lame, even if it is a joke.

I’ll bet that 9/10ths of the almost a million people who have viewed this on YouTube took it as a true Microsoft team video.  The other 1/10th who believe it’s a joke are still shaking their head.

Whether you are a powerhouse brand like Microsoft or the local bait shack — everything you do is shareable and accessible.  What do you really want your customers and peers seeing?

What do you think?  Does all this sharing and accessibility put an unfair choke hold on companies that want to just let loose a little?

28 comments on “When an internal corporate video goes terribly wrong

  1. Hi Drew…

    The sad part for me, as a documentary filmmaker specializing in the corporate arena, is how “corporate video” continues to get a bad name. This, in my view, just perpetuates the issue.

    Think of the remarkable stories that could have been captured to inspire, and heck, who knows…even transform a few lives!

    Story + Video = a chance to better the world.

    This is exactly why, two years ago, I started writing about the real hidden power of corporate storytelling on video.

    My life’s dream as a filmmaker is to get past this point. I guess we have a ways to go, huh?

    Thanks, as always, for kick-starting the conversation 🙂

    Thomas Clifford
    -Corporate Filmmaker

  2. Eamon says:

    Stuff like this should go through PR. PR people are the best in the business for understanding the effect of these types of promotions whether they are meant to be ironic or not. PR people just have a knack for knowing, intuitively, whether something like this is going to suck or not. As it stands – and whether they are being ironic or not – it sucks ..

    Cringe stuff.

  3. Tom,

    I agree — that’s the problem, whether or not this is a farce. Because these things get shared without any explanation — they have an impact on our opinion of the company, the marketing tool and the message.

    All of which makes the hill a little steeper for the true professionals to climb. So yup — this didn’t help your cause!

    But I have faith, keep telling your story.

    Drew

  4. Eamon,

    I also think this serves as a good reminder — joke or not, do not record it or write it down. In today’s age, nothing is beyond being shared.

    And usually the consequences are not worth the joke.

    Drew

  5. CK says:

    To frame this: I understand that this is a video for a sales team, correct? This is a video that gets their (likely bummed from BAD Vista premier feedback) sales team jazzed for a new version, correct? Ever worked with a bummed-out sales team–after a bad product has not done well? Oy.

    I just do not see what the fuss is about. Sorry.

    It hits home (to the sales team) what the product does (mobility/etc.) and, I think, strives to do so in a catchy way (through song). In Powerlines (my groovy new book!), Cone stresses the use of song when possible. So I ‘see’ where they were going.

    Yes, this is dorky. But it’s apparent that it’s supposed to be dorky. And MS is known for being dorks (um Gates and Ballmer?). Wanna know why the Mac Guy vs. PC Guy ads work so well? It ain’t the hipster…it’s the dorky PC guy.

    Now instead of having a little fun they’ll likely go back to ho-hum, low-risk, same old. Which I guess everyone wants. I’m not saying this is the way I would have advised. But apparently I am the only marketer (really, the only one) who found it dorky and, thusly, kinda silly. And I’m still understanding–but may be wrong!–that this was for internal uses.

    Now watch: Vista sales will go UP.

  6. CK,

    Oh, it’s dorky alright! My point was not whether it was inspiring to the staff or a joke or whatever. What I was trying to say was — we now live in a time when this sort of stuff does not stay undercover. Sooner or later, it all gets shared.

    So….I think companies like Microsoft need to be mindful of that when they produce this sort of thing.

    An title screen or something at the end that reveals the spoof would have been all they needed.

    And…I’m pretty sure a video like this did not inspire sales. It certainly wouldn’t have been what we recommended. It reminded me of those painful skits our high school teachers used to do.

    Drew

  7. Dusan Vrban says:

    Hmh, tough questions raised. Most certainly there’s a target group that likes it. Perhaps just a portion of their sales team, who knows. But as it seems to me, this raises strategic questions for corporate world.

    Such video can be produced by any team of any corporation. It can be even about bad things inside the company. Now should the corporate world “ban” such work? Not allowing it? Not producing it? Having it as an enemy?

    For me – no way! Have it, embrace it and “abuse” it. Let it out. Make a contest inside the company and bring it out to the public. And there you will have a million of things you can do better. Improve.

    Even better, have the employees face it. OK, you’ve made a video about our problem. Now let’s try to solve it. Engage.

    Everyone is speaking about customer engagement and empowerment. Employees are the customer here. Engage them, empower them. Let their voices be heard. And make improvements on that basis.

    Even this video shows a lot of things that can be improved in Microsoft sales. So it is a good video. If MS is willing to use it and make improvements out of it. Just having the PR “silence it down” is the worst thing to do. The problem of Vista won’t go away with that approach.

  8. JB says:

    I don’t think it was suppose to be inspirational, remarkable or transformational. It appears to me it was suppose to be a silly video to help everyone lighten up and laugh at themselves a little bit.

    I’m sorry this bombed, because I love it when a company stops taking themselves so seriously and will risk being dorky for a moment. Not always, but sometimes the internal review process of messages that are out of the ordinary can be soul sapping to staff because it can result in the same ol’ same ol’.

    I agree that the misunderstanding could have been mitigated by a statement that indicated — for the unintended audience — it was a spoof. Even when intention appears blatantly obvious to those on the inside, everything can be shared out of context instantly.

  9. Jim Kukral says:

    Attention=Revenue. We’re all talking about it. Good or bad, we’re talking. Mission accomplished. I think, when you’re as big as they are, you can get away with this type of thing.

    Now, a small business with a few customers who they can’t afford to possibly look stupid to, well, they could get crushed by doing this.

  10. CK says:

    @Drew: “My point was not whether it was inspiring to the staff or a joke or whatever. What I was trying to say was — we now live in a time when this sort of stuff does not stay undercover. Sooner or later, it all gets shared.”

    I hear you. And things do get out in this day and age–agreed. For me? This makes me like MS better–and it was so cute at the end when the exec said “And SP1 is going to keep rocking sales!” So dorky and full of energy.

    But if I were MS, I wouldn’t be mortified at this getting out. It’s high production values, it goes over product benefits in a catchy/memorable way and, honestly, its a kick to watch. Do hope MS does not put their sales team through more boring PPTs for fear of videos getting out from here on out. Levity 😉

    @JB: I agree with you, completely.

  11. Luis Spataro says:

    Dear microsoft communications director :
    you need me – lspataro@webtvmm.com at webtv communication strategy we will add value to your sp1. This doesnt. http://www.webtvmm.com

  12. Luis Spataro says:

    Dear microsoft communications director :
    you need me – lspataro@webtvmm.com at webtv communication strategy we will add value to your sp1. This doesnt. http://www.webtvmm.com

  13. sembach says:

    well, but it also can have a viral effect.

  14. Ann Shea says:

    This conversation reminded me of another dissection of a corporate video, a Cadbury’s chocolate ad meant for public consumption and seemingly designed to create a viral marketing epidemic …http://www.gottaquirk.com/post/939/gorillas-chocolate-and-television

    Yes, I think this “training video” is tongue-in-cheek, and meant to be “leaked” to the public, along the thought lines of any press is good press, and it’s all about the exposure. I think it was made intentionally so bad that people would discuss it and then watch to opine on it. Like in the Cadbury’s example, the blog author writes, “I wouldn’t have watched this more than once or twice if I hadn’t been thinking about writing this post.” I think it could have been a little more camp and self-spoofing a la Mad TV. The more people talk about it, the more people will view it and generate more buzz.

  15. Chris Posey says:

    Drew,
    The ironic thing (as some have already noted) is that the leak(?) of a horrible video like this may actually work for a company like Microsoft-a company often misrepresented (by you know who) as cold and impersonal. Granted, the content of the video stinks, but it does at least show some personality. I do agree that any company needs to be careful with what it produces because these days, seems like everything ends up published in front of a global audience (might not want to videotape that instructional meeting about effective insider trading), but for goofy stuff like this, I think companies would be at worst, safe. OK, maybe beat up on the playground, but no permanent damage.

  16. Debra Murphy says:

    Drew,

    I have to agree with CK on this one. I think people are just too serious these days. I think this video is hilarious – poking fun in a harmless way. (I love the girl who’s just taken with “Bruce” – a Vista groupie?). Ok so I have a weird sense of humor!

    But do you really believe that those in Microsoft who made this video didn’t think it was going to get out? Tell me they didn’t plan for this to happen? Other companies would love to get this level of attention. I doubt this harms Microsoft in any way and it actually helps them get increased interest in Vista.

  17. Allen Voivod says:

    Hi Drew,

    Nothing unfair about it. A company should know its brand well enough to know what does and doesn’t support it. And internal training videos should absolutely reinforce the brand.

    All this expanded sharing and accessibility just means people have to be more careful with what gets recorded for posterity.

    Best,
    Allen Voivod
    Epiphanies, Inc.
    “A-Ha Yourself!”

    P.S. I say it’s real and lame, but not the good kind of real and lame that makes it watchable over and over again. 😉

  18. Dusan,

    I believe the video was intended to get everyone fired up, as opposed to problem solve the many, many Vista challenges.

    But you’re right — letting the team in on the fun of making the video might be a very creative way to pick their brains about potential solutions.

    Drew

  19. JB,

    I’m sure the sales team loved this video, especially if the actors were really MS employees. So on that level, you are right — it was good to see them play.

    My point is really not about the video itself but the unintended consequences when something is shared with the world out of context.

    I’m guessing the employees who saw this were told the intent. It was framed up for them. But for us…we get to interpret the intention and assign it meaning.

    That’s the rub in this story, I think.

    Drew

  20. Jim,

    I’m not so sure I agree with as long as they are talking about us, we win. American Airlines was the topic of choice a few weeks ago and I am pretty sure it didn’t help their brand or their bookings.

    Again, I think the video is stupid but I have no problem with a company being a little stupid on themselves now and then. Especially a company with a reputation like MS. They need to lighten up, no doubt.

    My point was really more about thinking through the intended and unintentional audiences we might find our work in front of — and how to anticipate and proactively plan for that inevitability.

    Drew

  21. CK,

    I think what “concerns” me about the MS video being out and about is that we don’t know what the true intent, joke or no joke, etc. story of the video is.

    In today’s world, we probably need to frame something we know will be shared with some context so everyone gets the same message.

    MS can sustain any damage all of this has caused. But a smaller company, with less credibility and name recognition could really be damaged.

    Drew

  22. Luis,

    Be careful what you wish for — you might get a call!

    Drew

  23. sembach,

    Without a doubt. So if this is all an orchestrated strategy on MS’s side — what do you think their goal was and how’d they do?

    Drew

  24. Ann,

    Hmm, interesting thought. So your take is…if you are going to be campy and as Ck says, dorky — go all out. That way people will see the tongue poking out of your cheek.

    So where do you fall in on the “is all buzz good buzz” side of this discussion?

    Drew

  25. Debra,

    I don’t know what to think — which is sort of my point. If you’re going to do it, really do it. Communicate with us, either overtly or in a more subtle way, what your intentions are.

    So do you think this works because it is MS or would the tactic work for anyone, if the video were goofy enough?

    If you had a client, let’s say a business who was not all that well known outside of their immediate sphere of influence. Would you recommend a tactic like this?

    Drew

  26. Allen,

    So if this were your client and the video was now out and being discussed as it is — what would be your recommendation for next steps?

    How could they, whether this was intentional or not, capitalize on it?

    Drew

  27. Todd Cabral says:

    Wow. That hurt my eyes and ears at the same time. I think I’m scarred for life.

  28. Todd,

    Right there with you!

    Drew

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