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Microsoft hires Disney man for consumer crusade

Corporate mission: to be less stodgy

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Microsoft has raided the Walt Disney Corporation to fill a position tasked with flogging Windows 8 to consumers buying PCs and tablets next year.

The company appointed former Disney director of brand strategy Jay Victor as its own director of brand strategy, working in Microsoft's Central Marketing Group (CMG). Victor has been with Microsoft for almost a month.

Victor was with Disney for nearly five and a half years, and on his LinkedIn profile he says he managed brand strategy for family entertainment at "the coolest job in the world". His position included market research, business development, product development, creative, and marketing.

Contacted by The Reg to explain Victor's role, Microsoft would not comment, and Victor's LinkedIn profile says nothing about what he'll be doing. Microsoft's recruitment ad on LinkedIn does provide some detail, however.

Victor's initial focus will be Office, Windows, Bing, and Xbox, which the posting said "has accountability for brand stewardship on primary brand(s)." This means that one of Victor's first jobs will be introducing Windows 8, the successor to Windows 7 that is understood to be on the fast track, looking at an April 2012 release for both the x86 and the completely new ARM-architecture editions.

Windows 8 will be Microsoft's first operating system actually built for tablets in addition to PCs, and is designed to help Windows and OEMs finally deliver their response to Apple's iPad.

Interestingly, its looks like Victor is working on established Microsoft brands and not on Windows Phone, which Redmond is still working to establish and refine in the minds of consumers.

According to Microsoft's ad, Victor must develop and deliver brand strategy, which includes working on product names, messages, visual identities, marketing programs, and packaging, with all this integrated across advertising, PR, events, and retail.

CMG is Microsoft's marketing wheelhouse, setting and coordinating strategy, and measuring results for all products and for Microsoft corporate. CMG was until recently headed by senior vice president Mich Mathews, who this spring said she would retire after 22 years with the company. Mathews led and coordinated all branding, advertising, public relations, research, events, packaging, marketing, and internal communications.

Victor's appointment and Mathews' exit comes as Microsoft attempts to reinvigorate consumers' love affair with Microsoft. The company has been rolling out retail stores promoting and selling Microsoft products, and the target of Windows 7 and Internet Explorer marketing in recent years has been the consumer, with business taking a back seat.

It's Apple, however, that consistently beats Microsoft among those consumers. A 2008 brand survey of 2,000 people found Apple "cool" while Microsoft had "gone from innovative and bold to stodgy and a follower." This year, Apple bumped Google aside to become "world's most valuable brand", with Microsoft in fifth place, behind IBM and McDonald's.

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