Mimecast: a case study in how NOT to write ads

For the past few weeks myself and a number of colleagues who work with Microsoft products have seen our Facebook feed continually lit up with ads like this from Mimecast:

Before I go any further let me apply a disclaimer: I have no beef with Mimecast. I am not on the payroll of a competing vendor. I do not think Microsoft security is perfect. In fact I think that Mimecast make some good products.

So why am I writing this post and why do I care? Because apart from continually hiding these ads, they continue to appear and assault my senses with their poor messaging. I have attempted to post a comment on the ads but it appears the “social engagement” here is only one way.

What is wrong with these ads you ask? Two main things:

  • Calling out “numerous security gaps”
  • Incorrectly stating that Office 365 only has a “single security layer”

I work with a number of vendors that build solutions to enhance and extend Office 365 functionality, ranging from end user widgets through to corporate governance solutions. Notice how I didn’t say Office 365 has gaps in its functionality?

It’s not a case of being right or wrong This comes down to marketing messaging and copywriting. Vendors who buddy up to other vendors and offer complimentary solutions should not be calling out where the other is deficient, and that they have the fix. Calling out limitations and where a product ends is one thing, because no product can do everything for everyone. Language is everything in today’s ever-social online world. Trash-talking is what vendors do when they compete with another vendor, and even then, it doesn’t come off as a positive representation. Trash-talking a vendor you compliment, well that’s just stupid.

So, Mimecast: please take down your ads from Facebook and replace them with something that does not prey on fear, but instead refers to where your fantastic solutions go above and beyond what Office 365 offers.

Is this the end of Office “365” as we know it?

Microsoft has been slowly removing the “365” from Office 365 over the past few months in all kinds of different places.

Ever since Microsoft Inspire (formerly known as the Worldwide Partner Conference) in July 2017 where Microsoft 365 was unveiled, the term “Office 365” and especially the “365” is being seen less and less.

For example many web portals that previously used 365 in their URL now just use office.com. A couple of examples include:

Old URL New URL
https://outlook.office365.com
https://portal.office365.com

Others that are built on top of Office 365 don’t even use the Office URLs, such as Teams which uses teams.microsoft.com as its URL.

Looking at the Microsoft corporate messaging since mid-2017 we see slides like this:

You’ll notice how all of the apps and services listed in the above slide are from Office 365, but this is a “Microsoft 365” slide.

The Microsoft 365 bundle isn’t entirely new in the enterprise space. Before the current incarnation it was known as the “Secure Productive Enterprise”, and before that “Enterprise Cloud Suite”. The key difference from Inspire this year is that now there is a Business edition available.

Microsoft 365 is made up of three key components: Windows 10, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). Both Office 365 and EMS are in themselves bundles of apps and services

EMS is itself without version numbers, as are the products within its bundle – as most of these were born in the cloud.

Windows 10 has been purported to be the last version of Windows and also one that is continually updated. So at some point the “10” part of its name may drop off as well.

Office 365 is a collection of version-less apps and services. The closest we come to versioning is apps such as Office 365 ProPlus being the somewhat equivalent of Office 2013/2016 and at some point 2019.

The better together experience Microsoft is aiming for is delivered by Microsoft 365: the latest desktop experience, the latest productivity experience across mobile/web/desktop, and the latest security experience across every device/account/service/app.

At present “Office 365” is still the term that is being used in presentations and events, but more and more it is being replaced with “Microsoft 365” in slideware and general messaging.

Ultimately this is purely a shift in branding and customer perception. Where once Azure was known as “Windows Azure”, Microsoft removed the operating system specific branding so that customers weren’t restricted in their thinking that Azure could only run Windows services on it. Now Azure runs a number of Linux/Unix flavours, as well as providing services that are less about operating system and more about development language & platform.

Office 365 has served its purpose as a brand and differentiator. While some organisations are still yet to migrate to Office 365, it has become the mainstream of productivity for any Microsoft-aligned organisation.

I expect over the next year or so we’ll see the “365” disappear from Office 365 and “10” disappear from Windows, and the messaging will read that Microsoft 365 is built on Windows, Office, and EMS. There won’t be a song and dance about it, URLs and branding will simply continue to change quietly in the background.

One day you’ll log in and this:

Will have simply become this: