microsoft’s ad misses the mark again

Once again Microsoft’s ad strategy is off-base.  Their newest ad criticizes Apple for being expensive by “documenting” one woman’s quest to find a laptop that meets her needs for under $1000.

The ad falls short on several points (lack of creativity being only one) but the biggest issue I have with the spot is the woman’s mutter, “I’m just not cool enough to be a Mac person.

What is Microsoft trying accomplish by including this remark?

–  false humility?  Is Microsoft going for self-deprecation, kind of like a person who always criticizes herself so that you feel obligated to affirm her in some way?

–  sarcastic jab?  Is the tech giant once again trying to make fun of how cool Mac users think they are?

–  reverse psychology?  Or perhaps Microsoft is secretly hoping that by saying they’re not cool, people will think they really are?

Whatever the goal, it’s not working for me.  I previously made the point that Microsoft isn’t cool and that’s OK — but actually coming out and declaring “we’re not cool” isn’t the solution.

Instead of reinforcing the comparison with Apple, Microsoft should focus on a positive message about itself — that is, their advertising should be about what it is, not what it’s not.

Perhaps Microsoft should take a page out of the lesson book of another corporate giant that used to struggle with countering its cooler, more stylish competitor — Wal-mart. After several attempts to position itself against Target, Wal-mart found its voice (and helped turn around its declining sales trend) and ran a campaign that transformed its often criticized size and ubiquity into a positive brand-building platform, the company’s green efforts — (Brandweek ran a POV of mine about this last year).

Microsoft’s last ad effort “I’m a PC” was, while also flawed in some ways, certainly a better effort at reinforcing the brand’s positive equity.  Not sure why the company didn’t stick with the strategy and work at optimizing it, but perhaps “I’m just not smart enough to be a Microsoft critic.”

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  • right after i wrote this post, i came across a quote from Chris Cox, Facebook’s director of products — “Cool only lasts for so long, but being useful is something that applies to everyone” — are you listening, microsoft?

  • illadvised

    Seems like to me that Microsoft actually hit a nerve. I think they pulled off exactly what the wanted, they got people like you talking.

  • Yiiiikes. After the SongSmith debacle I don’t know how any future Microsoft ad could look bad in comparison!

    The “I’m not cool enough” message reeks of the loser kid you felt sorry for in middle school and tried to befriend… only to realise he was empty, mean and really jealous.

    Take or leave Mac’s coolness. It’s the easy confidence of a brand (and customer base) having much more fun.

  • Sam

    I don’t understand why Microsoft doesn’t hit Apple back where it would hurt — by pointing out they are exactly what they say they aren’t: a big, fat corporation, too, that doesn’t play along with the rest of the industry, obsoletes its products on a three-year cycle (just try getting a power cord for a machine older than that!), who charges heaps of money to box you in, and yadda, yadda, yadda. Apple tries to position itself as “cool” while it does lots of not cool stuff. Microsoft gets hammered for being a monopoly. Hello?

    So I’m not a marketing guru. I am a consumer who’s been driven mad when I tried to play iTunes on an MP3 player which wasn’t an iPod. How dare my dad be so foolish as to buy a Sony!

  • ajv592

    Here’s what I like about it. In a time when all the other ads have already testified whether they are ‘macs’ or ‘pcs’, this one actually follows one ‘real’ woman’s journey through the purchasr process. It’s not an easy process for most. With gazillions of bells and whistles of the technical variety, Lauren obviously has chosen the most important to focus on, screen size. She takes some of the guess work out of the shopping for others like her, possible Mac-switchers being lured by design and ui fabulocity. It takes place in a comfortable setting for many of us, retail-ville. I’d be surprised if this spot doesn’t do good things for MS, HP, BBY and possibly even Mac (Hey, Apple should send MS for the free plug about cool. ; ).

  • just heard about microsoft’s latest attack on apple — in the second installment of the ad campaign, the “hero” mutters, “I don’t want to pay for the brand, I want to pay for the computer.”

    mircrosoft just doesn’t get it, do they?! the brand IS the computer — for apple, it’s the computer that some people think is easier to use, more reliable, has better/more functionality, has a design that looks good which allows people to express themselves, etc.

    i say this as someone who uses a pc so i’m not one of those people, but i understand that is what the apple brand is and that is what their customers pay for.

    perhaps microsoft’s advertising should highlight why people should pay for the microsoft brand — ya think?!!

  • That ad was funny. Watched for 3 times and laughed till tears.

    Mainly because the first shop she went to was Apple store (still: first choice).
    Secondly, that remark of not being cool.
    Thirdly, that remark about “this looks like phone” — a secret message about iPhone?
    Fourthly, she bought a computer for 699 — but the promise was she can choose up to 1000 — so, i have to admit that the girl was totally blond — where did those 300 go?

    And aftre all — she had some (so called) REQUIREMENTS — 17 inch, comfortable keybord and speed. Wel, well, well — whoever buys mac because just of these 3 factors? Nobody, i think. Though Macs are faster, nad keybord is more comfortable. And when my sister with her PC comes (and it was over 699), and i sit behind it, i feel so happy for being a MacBookPro owner — the mac graphics are stuuning — much more better than PC graphics.

    That ad is total FAIL. Absolutely agree with Lee Yohn — those guys even dont understand what a brand is, what can we expect form them?

  • Great post Denise. This campaign is a big ol’ mess. There’s an article today saying Lauren here is part of a three-year brand building campaign (http://tinyurl.com/c963nx), but the ad clearly degrades the brand. As Krishjohn points out, she’s “not cool enough.” Of all the brands I remember as a kid, the ones I wasn’t cool enough for are seared into my brain. Not so much the ones we settled for.

    The second spot directly blows up the brand. Giampaolo says “I want to pay for the computer, not the brand.” (video here… http://bit.ly/16uyMZ). Wha? There’s a third out now with a mom and son… more of the same. More price messaging at the expense of brand meaning. I really think Crispin sold Microsoft a load of “cool.” Either that, or they’re working as double agents for Apple and are destroying the brand from the inside. I imagine those crazy advertising guys all use macs…

  • double agents! yes! that explains it — i’ve been wondering why such a lauded agency like crispin would produce such off-target work — i was hoping it wasn’t because the client stifled every other idea they pitched…

  • Sadly, I think you’re closer to the mark. Just wishful thinking on my part.

    My take on the third installment here:


    Would love your take on it.

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