Perceptions Are Illogical.
Changing well-established perceptions is a difficult marketing task and there's been lots of online discussion about the merit of Microsoft's new advertising campaign. But I want to focus on one aspect of the process, the underlying logic of change.
It seems to me that at least one reason why Bill Gates is featured is that someone made the following deduction. Bill Gates is Microsoft. But Bill Gates is perceived to be a hard-nosed business nerd. If we soften the perception of Bill, we'll soften the perception of Microsoft.
At first, that might seem easier than trying to change the perception of Microsoft directly. The trouble is that even if they succeeded in changing the current perception of Bill Gates, Microsoft would still be associated with the old and long-standing perception of Bill Gates. If you want to move both ends of an equation, you have to do just that, move both of them.
There isn't any real need to try to move both ends anyway. Why not just create a new equation. What they want to do is change the perception of Microsoft, so that's what they should focus on doing. The way to do that is not through advertising, but through actions and products that inevitably make customers feel that something has changed.