It might be in a blog post, on Twitter, or in a forum, but somebody is almost certainly poking fun at your business. A little fun at your company’s expense might sting your ego, but the blunt, raw feedback, no matter how provocative or irreverent, can expose some of the truest sentiments from your customers.

Loud, brutally honest criticism has long made companies pull 180s on big initiatives (see: Qwikster, The Gap). But what if, instead of a quiet and shameful about-face, companies openly and enthusiastically embraced the mud slung their way?

That’s what Microsoft is doing with its Internet Explorer 9 campaign: Making one of the most of the long-standing attacks on IE by getting in on the fun.

Microsoft’s IE9 campaign– The Browser You Loved to Hate – reflects all the common refrains on why IE has, historically, sucked, and, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, uses them to segway into why this version is different.

So far, it’s been effective. Why? Three reasons:

  • It shows, very clearly and directly, that Microsoft is listening. Customers like knowing that they’re being heard. Make fun of yourself, and you reference your customers’ concerns in a comprehensible way.
  • It’s allowed Microsoft to reclaim control of the conversation, and then change it. For once, people are talking about IE9, and the campaign itself, rather than just IE’s flaws.
  • They’re delivering the goods – IE9 is indeed one of the fastest browsers out there. Don’t make fun of your own business without making changes to go along with it. The idea is to use the criticism to drive attention to your improved product.

An all-out campaign like Microsoft’s won’t work for all companies, but a quick jab in a blog post or tweet is a good way to test the waters and add some levity to your product launch.

By: Dan Carlson
Twitter: @dancarlson317