As many snoozed their way through the lowest-scoring Super Bowl of all time, commercial breaks easily became the highlight of the evening. Amidst the “action” of the game — if you could call it that — my thoughts drifted into deconstructing the various ads, which were far better at keeping my attention (to be fair, that’s not exactly specific to this game).
From the odd, ASMR-inspired Michelob Ultra commercial to the amusing and celeb-packed Pepsi approach (Hot take: Pepsi IS “just ok.” Fight me about it.), to the chuckle-worthy Alexa spot featuring Harrison Ford and his mischievous pup.… really, we saw tactics all across the board. But I want to focus on the one that felt the most impactful to me: Microsoft’s stirring ad for their new adaptive controller.
This commercial is a great example of a brand’s purpose coming to life in an ad. Let’s unpack some details about it, including its underpinning in Microsoft’s purpose and mission.
The ad’s got a killer signoff line: “When everybody plays, we all win.” It’s clever, slightly nuanced, applies to the product perfectly, and resonates with truth. But more importantly, the message ties back to Microsoft’s overarching mission as a company — as does the product itself.
A Little History on Microsoft’s Purpose
Now, you may remember Microsoft’s earliest mission statement: “A computer on every desk and in every home.” That goal was set by Bill Gates, but as the position of CEO has changed hands, so has the company’s driving mission. Its most recent iteration was first leaked by GeekWire in 2015, when they acquired access to a company-wide email from CEO Satya Nadella. The (still-current) replacement? “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
In a USA Today interview, Nadella expressed his frustration with the former mission statement:
“When I joined the company in 1992, we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world….It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal.”
Nadella’s updated, aspirational mission statement actually gave Microsoft a driving purpose. Moving beyond a tactical goal and broadening the mission allows the company to interpret its meaning in myriad ways, fueling an ongoing purpose as opposed to an achievable goal.
Purpose-Driven Brands Get More Mileage
So, connecting this purpose back to the aforementioned Super Bowl commercial is simple. In fact, with a truly purpose-driven brand, all company actions should be pretty easy to connect to the brand’s underlying purpose. In this case, Microsoft has taken its mission to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more” and applied it to the limited-mobility community of gamers young and old. The intent to foster accessibility as a means of achieving a greater good is further crystallized on the product page copy: “When technology empowers each of us, it empowers all of us.”
Enabling accessibility as a way to achieve Microsoft’s core purpose makes perfect sense. Literally, they are empowering people to achieve more than what was possible without their innovative products. It’s just one way of realizing that goal. And with such a lofty and infinitely re-interpretable purpose to drive the brand, they will be able to endlessly continue in this pursuit.
Furthermore, open-ended purpose can serve as inspiration beyond product development and marketing; it also functions as a compass and driving force for company culture. That’s why we advocate so strongly for the purpose-driven brand approach: it gives every part of an organization deeper meaning, from the message to the products to the people. It unifies a brand and gives people something to believe in and buy into — both internally and externally — and lends itself to a rallying cry and direction that can be followed in the present and into the future.