So I saw this article on Politico and had to write about this because it’s typical Microsoft.

Microsoft have endorsed Mark Penn by making him Chief Strategy Officer.

Basically, CEO Satya Nadella decided to make changes and shuffle some chairs on the Microsoft deck. As part of that reorg, he made famous strategist Mark Penn CSO.

Now what’s the big deal you may ask?

Let’s talk about Mark Penn, who is he?

The article sheds some light..

Penn, known as a champion of negative ads, was a divisive figure during Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and, as a Microsoft executive, he was the mastermind behind the company’s “Scroogled” ad campaign against Google.

Nadella, who took the reins of CEO just a few weeks ago, appears to be a fan. He touted Penn’s abilities in an e-mail to employees released Monday.

“His focus on using data to quickly evaluate and evolve our campaigns has driven new insights and understanding,” Nadella said. “Mark and his team also will continue to provide input in the area of competitive research and analysis. I am looking forward to applying Mark’s unique skill set across a broader set of challenges facing the company, from new product ideas to helping shape the overall areas of strategic investment.”

Sounds great right?

Makes absolutely no sense to me.

Mark Penn is a very divisive figure and has a reputation as a rough and tumble hard nosed political figure.

The Politico article goes on.

The longtime strategist to the Clintons played a controversial role in Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

He was known for aggressive tactics such as the “3 a.m.” ad questioning whether Barack Obama had the experience to deal with a global crisis. He also was blamed for strategic decisions, such as emphasizing Clinton’s electability, that critics said gave Obama an opening to build grassroots support in the Democratic primary.

Penn, who joined Microsoft in 2012 under then-CEO Steve Ballmer, gets credit for the series of high-profile TV and print ads that slammed Google for invading consumers’ privacy by scanning Gmail content to serve up advertisements. It was part of a broader effort to challenge Google, the top Internet search engine and a key rival for Microsoft as the software giant seeks a larger foothold on the Web.

I guess that’s the heart of my question about why Microsoft is still using his services.

He worked with Hillary – that didn’t work out well and he was pretty much shooed out of the campaign involved in a scandal. Oh and Hillary lost that race.

Then he comes to Microsoft and his strategy is to intimidate and insult Google and say that they are bullies and they store data (gee who knew?). Google obviously don’t give a rats ass and the campaign, while amusing, hasn’t led Microsoft into the sunlight with Search or anything relevant.

Finally, he has no tech background (he has a Political Science degree from Harvard) and has worked in PR and politics all his life.

I don’t know the man and bear him no ill will but it seems like a somewhat strange choice and one that is sadly consistent with Microsoft’s way of doing things……. a little different.

It begs the question, why would you make your CSO someone with such high visibility failures on their record and someone who is considered controversial and divisive.

Microsoft need someone who understands Microsoft’s unique place in tech history today and someone who can uniquely understand strategically where they need to go as a TECHNOLOGY company.

Microsoft’s problem isn’t Google or Apple, it’s Microsoft. The company needs to design software and services that businesses and consumers want – period. Satya Nadella knows that the company needs to focus like a laser on EXECUTION.

Maybe this “promotion” is a gentle way of moving him aside though, Politico also says:

While the new chief strategy officer title confirms Penn still has a place in the Microsoft lineup under the new boss, there’s been some debate as to whether this is actually a promotion or not. Microsoft’s advertising budget will go to another executive, Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela, as part of the broader executive reshuffle announced Monday, according to a source familiar with the changes.

Just another curious choice by the software giant I guess.

What’s your take? What gives with the Mark Penn promotion?

Use the comments below….

About the Author

Onuora Amobi is the Founder and VP of Digital Marketing at Learn About The Web Inc. Onuora has more than a decade of information security, project management and management consulting experience. He has specialized in the management and deployment of large scale ERP client/server systems.

In addition to being a former Microsoft MVP and the founder and editor of, he is the CEO of a Pasadena based online marketing education startup - Learn About The Web Inc. ( and The Redmond Cloud (

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  1. Rodney Longoria / March 4, 2014 at 11:54 am /Reply

    IMHO, they should have stuck with Tami Reller. She’s been there, done that. This guy seems to be a flash in the pan sort … here today, gone tomorrow.

  2. Yeah, I know of him. He should have been promoted and transferred to Papua New Guinea as head of Microsoft there. If it’s just tucking him away where he can’t do damage, fine. If it is not, it is Satya’s first major misstep.

  3. I just hope that with this reshuffle we can see Microsoft do some quality advertising, I find that Microsofts products are fantastic but nobody uses them. Case in point Microsoft Zune, it’s much better than itunes in my opinion, but nobody has heard about the software, they’ve only heard of the failed mp3 player. Another point is Microsoft Mathematics, it’s free and it’s the most brilliant computer calculator program I’ve ever used, again hardly anybody I’ve talked to knows about it. This is sort of a tangent from the discussion that was supposed to be here but still, Microsoft’s inability to get their products known is kind of tragic.

    • Part of the problem with Zune was marketing. But part of it was, the hardware itself was way too late, and Microsoft didn’t do enough to improve over iTunes. There are a lot of things people don’t like about iTunes just like any other products. But for some reason Microsoft never says “most consumers don’t like this about a product or this policy; maybe we should do something different.”

      • I have a look at Zune before but it is not as eye catching as iPod. Sometimes, first impression is very important. If it is not eye catching, no one will spend time to find out its potential.

  4. One thing that is forgotten in all of this, he is not a one man show .. he oversees a team of people who’s business it is to understand trends which could be useful to product team roadmaps, investment/acquistion strategy, etc. I think the whole advertising thing is a sideshow which I’m glad Nadella removed him from.

    • Yeah but still, why him though?

      • By some accounts he is considered somewhat of a genius when it comes to trend analysis. Assuming that is true (I don’t know), just because we don’t like his decision making doesn’t mean he couldn’t be useful in a advisory role. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if their “Big Data” efforts are being utilized and validated by Penn’s team. I’m not saying Penn is going to be around for more than 3 years at Microsoft but for the short term, I don’t see much harm if he as good at those other things as is rumored. They just needed to put a muzzle on him.

        • Good point.

          Philosophy 101 question – Can you be a genius if your major campaigns are failures?


          • Genius running political / advertising campaigns .. uh, definitely not. But I voted for Obama so I guess I’m biased.

          • I’m just sayin…

            Cognitive Dissonance is what I see when I see his name and a technology brand.

          • I personally found no problems with Hillary’s campaign, but then again I’m not an average Joe. I’m not the kind of voter who gets caught up in how a candidate makes me feel. He just had the wrong strategy to capture those voters

          • Rodney Longoria / March 4, 2014 at 10:20 pm

            Sure you can. Look at ancient history, for example. Alexander was Great but he still never conquered India. Same with Hannibal, who got to the gates of Rome but didn’t burn it to the ground. And more recently, look at Tim Cook, who took over for a genius and is still playing the same cards. Oh, never mind that last one. No one ever called Tim Cook a genius with a straight face.


          • LOL

            I give up..


  5. Maybe he’s not the person for Microsoft, and possibly for the same reason he wasn’t right for Hillary. Hillary was up against an impossible wall to break through. Once President Obama won one primary. Hillary as Microsoft and Obama was Apple. She had to compete against someone who could do no wrong expect in the eyes of people who absolutely hated him and what he stood for. It’s the same situation with Microsoft. Microsoft is seen as the big,bad Microsoft who can do nothing right while their competitors are seen as perfect and above humanity. I don’t have a problem with Penn. I think he can be terribly effective, but it might be possible that his style doesn’t hit where Microsoft is now. Microsoft needs a strategy more similar to Hillary’s toward the end.

  6. Just like BB hired a singer as PR head. Simply waste of money and do nothing to the quality of the products.

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