3.292009

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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