In the fall of 2006, a group of senior European executives at Microsoft (MSFT) entered a meeting expecting to see a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, Steve Clayton—then the chief technology officer for Microsoft’s U.K. Partner Group—showed them a hand-drawn image of an impish blue creature bearing gnarled fangs and sporting the provocative caption “Microsoft: Change the world or go home.” After a few initial gasps, recalls Clayton, the attendees engaged in a lively discussion around the current direction of the company and the brand. “People liked the way it changed the angle of conversation,” Clayton says.
The image was not the product of Microsoft’s marketing department or an ad agency, but of cartoonist, writer, and marketing strategist Hugh MacLeod—a friend of Clayton. Ever since MacLeod sent the cartoon to Clayton and posted it on his blog, gapingvoid (www.gapingvoid.com) more than a year ago, the “blue monster” character has become an unofficial corporate mascot among many Microsoft employees, posted in cubicles, printed on business cards and T-shirts, and added to e-mail signatures. “I’m told it always leads to an interesting, atypical Microsoft conversation,” says MacLeod—the result he had hoped for.