How do you take an unpopular software browser and make it popular enough to resonate with audiences all over again? The answer is simple: just add an animated touch.
In 2013, popular Japanese blogger Danny Choo posted three personification designs for Internet browsers including Firefox, Chrome, and Safari on Facebook. Fans noted the absence of a counterpart for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Collateral Damage Studios, an art studio also known as CDS, decided to research and have some fun in creating an “IE-tan” (or Internet Explorer-tan) to expand their portfolio into character design. Maybe, just maybe, the design could even bring Microsoft on as a client.
Built on the concept of redemption (where the bulky IE outpaced by younger, hip browsers like Chrome deserves a second chance), the character of Inori Aizawa embodied an ugly duckling. She was initially clumsy and nerdy, always trying to do too much like opening multiple tabs and getting frustrated over errors.
Then, in a Sailor Moon-esque transformation in the animated campaign ad, Inori became a much more confident, elegant, and daring personification. CDS added the classic IE toolbar to her long gloves to allow her to control multiple tabs on a browser window and her overall outfit and general design included more Windows and IE symbols and slick, touchscreen panels.
As a clever side note, her name tied in to Internet Explorer nicely too. “Aizawa” was chosen because she came from the same Microsoft mascot family as Silverlight and “Inori” as “given what she represents, she could definitely use a prayer.” The first syllable of each part of her name read Ai Ii, sounding a lot like… “IE-tan.”
Debuting on the CDS Facebook on May 13, 2013, Inori drew in an impressive audience. She came equipped with vital statistics that humanized and made her even more popular including her love for karaoke and mint-flavored ice cream. Suddenly, Internet Explorer sounded cool and fun again — and her post even signed off with “Microsoft. Call me.”
While that last line was meant in jest, a representative from Microsoft Singapore did reach out to CDS team. A customized version of IE would be released that would be branded with Inori Aizawa, with the animation of this popular personification drawing in audiences to use Internet Explorer. The aforementioned animated short was one of the most prominent aspects of the campaign, becoming one of the most buzzworthy videos on Internet Explorer’s YouTube channel, garnering over two million views in one week. (Remember, this short ran in 2013. Imagine how many more views it could have generated if it ran right now!)
While the campaign for Inori is no longer ongoing, CDS still holds a special place in their hearts for Inori since the project kickstarted their studio. Beyond generating name recognition for the underdog, it also proved that when a major brand steps outside of its “stuffy” image in favor of adapting to fresh ideas full of personality, audiences notice — and they’ll come along on the ride with you.