Can Microsoft Save Itself, Or Is It Too Late?

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Even as a self-confessed Microsoft fan boy, I have to admit that Windows Vista is one catastrophe that can’t be saved by a $300 million advertising campaign.

I’ve been following Microsoft’s $300 million dollar counter attack on Apple’s “Mac vs PC” campaign with interest. And whilst it’s taken some time, it’s good to finally see Microsoft on the front foot. Here’s a snippet of their ad creative.

The disappointing thing is that this new campaign has a snowflake’s chance in hell of actually working.

Here’s why …

5 Reasons Why This Vista Campaign Is Doomed

  1. The “Mac vs PC” Campaign Speaks Directly to its Demographic.

    Apple’s “Mac vs PC” campaign worked because it leveraged a sentiment that already existed — the appeal of being a little bit different, a lot more fun, and a lot less “suit and tie.” They (very cleverly) positioned a Mac as being a “PC for real people” and executed a stellar campaign consistent with their brand. The campaign spoke to us with a voice we’d expect from Apple, so when they told us why the Mac was better, in their own cheeky and humorous way, we believed them and people lapped it up.

    On the other hand, Microsoft has worn the grey suit-and-tie of corporatism for years now. Many people see Microsoft as a corporate giant, while Apple is viewed as a regular company. Like it or not, people generally don’t like being told what’s what by a big corporate, and amongst those people are a bunch of vocal influencers who will scream their disdain for Microsoft until they’re red in the face and can scream no more.

    So when Microsoft tries to tell us that Vista is great (and does so in a way that is unexpected from the corporate giant) those dissenters will be rebutted with cries of “We once believed the guy who told us the earth was flat! We’re not going to make the same mistake again!

  2. Tit-for-Tat Tactics Rarely Works for the Retaliator.

    Apple got in first with a great campaign — going into a tit-for-tat battle with them on their home turf will take a lot of money, a lot of time, and some seriously good technology to back them up. Whilst $300 million may sound like a lot for you and me, in the battle of big business it’s a drop in the ocean. As for the technology, well the jury’s still out …

  3. It’s Just Taken Too Long to Respond.

    The slow moving beast that is the Microsoft marketing department needs to realise that if they’re going to counter attack, they need to do it fast before their enemy has established a stronghold.

    Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during the raging debates at Microsoft over whether they should piss in Apple’s pond to beat them at their own game! But the hesitation they’ve shown in addressing “the Apple problem” will cost them …

  4. Microsoft Doesn’t Have the Brand Advocacy It Needs, and This Campaign Won’t Change That.

    I was born into a Microsoft world, as were many of my friends and colleagues. Perhaps you were too? Our first computers ran MS-DOS and Windows, as did our schools, and our offices. We embraced it as part of the personal computer revolution — we didn’t change because we were too ignorant to care, or too cash-strapped to seek alternatives. Over time, Microsoft products became part of our lives.

    Today, those of us who remain Microsoft users do so simply because it’s comfortable. Changing to another operating system seems like too much hard work.

    Translating this mindset into brand advocacy terms produces key influencers like “it’s in my comfort zone”, or “it’s forced on me through work” rather than “this product is something I really believe in”.

    But those who do make the switch to a Mac (or even to Linux), regardless of whether the decision was the result of marketing hype or because of thorough research, made that choice themselves. This is a key difference affecting how that user describes their operating system to others.

    For example, if you’ve switch from a PC to a Mac, but your Mac experience is actually much the same (or worse) than your experience on the PC, then you’re likely to keep your mouth shut. You wouldn’t want to admit that you made a poor choice and show everyone how wrong you were!

    If, however, you rate your Mac experience as the best you’ve ever had, then you’re going to tell anyone who will listen just how good that product is, to show them how smart you are.

    Once again, if we were to translate this into brand advocacy terms, you’re operating either out of fear of admitting a bad choice, or from an association of a shared experience of pure elation. So those who are unhappy people keep their mouth shut, and the people who are excited, make sure it’s known. No wonder we read so much good press about the Mac.

  5. The Product Just Isn’t Good Enough.

    I’m a simple PC user. I barely tap the surface of my computer’s potential. My satisfaction from an operating system is based on three simple things:

    1. Does it work when I need it?
    2. Does it help me complete the tasks I have today?
    3. Is it easy to learn how to complete new tasks that come my way?

    I’m sad to say that so far my Vista experience has been a resounding “No” for all three of these questions. And I’m the fan boy.

    Given that I feel this negatively about Vista, and that the majority of people with whom I discuss this topic also seem to feel this way, I can only conclude that there is something very wrong with Vista.

First of a series? We’ll see…

This first round of ads looks like the emergence of a series of ”false-belief” analogies. I’d be very surprised to see them get to round two. Perhaps Apple will come up with its own marketing campaign to counter this approach, thus putting the nail in the coffin for Vista?

What do you think? Can Microsoft save itself, or is it too late?

Shayne TilleyShayne Tilley
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