What Marketing Can And Can't Do With Microsoft's Avatars

We took a look at Microsoft's "Avatar Guidelines" today, the company's set of rules governing how avatars can be displayed in both internal and external (ie, catalogues) marketing programs. And they're more interesting than you think.

Sure, most of it is made up with the kind of stuff only marketing teams and graphic designers need worry about. Asset placement, fonts, that sort of thing.

But amidst all the practical stuff are some points like this, revealing not only Microsoft's underlying "vision" for the little guys, but the kind of restrictions they'll place on their use to ensure that "vision" is achieved. Some of them are understandable! Others, a little...odd. All interesting, however, so we figured we'd share.

- When Avatars are used in a group of three or more, at least one Avatar must be female.

- When Avatars are used in a group of three or more, consider including different ethnicities.

- When Avatars are used in groups of three or more, one of them should be facing forward and looking outward.

- Avatars must be playful and mischievous, not devious or inappropriate.

- Do not show Avatars with closed or blinking eyes.

- Do not show Avatars using any hand or body gestures other than those provided.

- Do not use an Avatar as the main message of a marketing piece.

- Do not show Avatars interacting with the Xbox 360 Sphere.

Like I said, odd. Where does one draw the line between "mischievous" and "devious"? And what's wrong with a sausage party?


    Whats so good about avatars, that people are willing to pay $2 for some skins. Complete waste of money.

      The same can be said for anything at all. What's so good about a $1000 watch when a $10 one tells the time just as well? What's so good about a Ferrari when a Hyundai will get you to the shops just as quickly? Just because you don't get enjoyment out of it doesn't mean others can't...

    you can really read between the lines on this one...
    Most xbox users are:
    Male, White, self/group-centric, devious & inappropriate.

    but the best bit is this:
    Do not show Avatars interacting with the Xbox 360 Sphere.
    ie must not be associated with the RROD

    [email protected]$

      I think they are referring to the Xbox 360 logo (the one on the guide button of the controller), rather than the power button on the unit itself.

      "Male, White, self/group-centric, devious & inappropriate."

      Damn, you should be in marketing, that's my exact demographic

      This is so true. It's an interesting mix of marketing and political correctness.

      The xbox 360 sphere is not the ring that lights up for the RROD it's the normal logo they use for the startup sequence and next to most xbox 360 logos.

      That's why this restriction is still weird.

    I like the ones about groups of 3, there's no reason why marketing shouldn't try and reinforce the idea that non-whites and non-males can be gamers too. Having only males shown in marketing for a console is only going to make it less appealing to females.
    As to Avatars as a whole, I do think they are currently completely useless and spending money on clothing a total waste. Games the let you unlock clothing through achievements isn't a bad idea, but until these avatars are actually used for something other than a picture beside your profile, who's gonna care what they look like.

    They dont want them associated with it to closely so they can use them on the next console and so on, otherwise people will be 'oh thats the old 360's thing'

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