Posts Tagged ‘microsoft

08
Dec
09

When consumer rights orgs get it wrong: Consumers International gets it twisted

In December 2009, Consumers International (CI) announced their annual ‘Bad Company Awards’ for 2009. Among the brands that CI deemed to label “Bad” was Microsoft, lambasted for it’s claims that Windows 7 was a greener OS. Consumers International claimed that whilst Microsoft was flogging a greener OS (which they liked), they were also trying to encourage consumers to buy new hardware / PCs (which they hated)…. and they could not have been much further from the truth.

The Simpsons is a very powerful show - this is how people still seem to see Microsoft - "Buy Him Out, Boys"

I’m all for consumer rights. I love the idea of organisations like CI or Choice Australia keeping companies honest and providing reliable, third party information for consumers. Heck, I started this blog partly because I wanted to showcase great, ethical marketing and expose shonky, dishonest marketing, so I share an end goal with these organisations to an extent. In theory, I like what Consumers International is doing. But part of the credibility of such organisations comes from giving objective, informed decisions, and in this case I don’t think either of these qualities have been displayed. They seem to either (A) have something against Microsoft or (B) just don’t understand what they are talking about in this case.

Before I look at the reasons I feel CI have totally missed the mark by including Microsoft as a “Bad” Company, I need to confirm that I am not employed by Microsoft – I am self-employed, but I am currently contracted to Microsoft to help with their technical community efforts. Further, I’m not a Microsoft fan boy… I like alot of their products, but I’ve got a Playstation aswell as my Xbox360, I have a Nokia phone, I’ve used MacOS on and off for years, I use Google for probably 50% of my search needs, and cut my teeth as a geek (in my past life) delivering open source projects in PHP for NSW state government departments. So I’m no Microsoft zealot. As such, I’m confident that the points I list below can be considered as a fairly objective criticism of CI’s “Bad Company Awards” (as they relate to Microsoft anyway).

1 – No-one I know has gone out to buy a new PC just for the Windows 7 experience – all have either bought the software from a reseller, or downloaded it and upgraded. Those that needed a new PC, bought one, but not just so they could upgrade to Windows 7.

2 – I’m no licensing expert, but I’m pretty sure an OEM (or ‘Original Equipment Manufacturer’) license probably brings in less revenue per PC for Microsoft than when someone buys Windows outright from a reseller like Harvey Norman. What does this mean? Basically that Microsoft makes less money from shipping a copy of Windows 7 on, say, a HP laptop, than they do by selling people the software alone through resellers / online…  it makes no sense for Microsoft to be trying to push people to buy new PC’s when it makes money from software, not PC hardware sales.

3 – Microsoft went to great efforts to ensure the upgrade to Windows 7 from Vista was easy. And it is easy. Ridiculously easy. Upgrading from a Vista machine to Windows 7 is something an average consumer with average computer knowledge can do themselves without needing help / tech support. Why would they Microsoft make upgrading old computers so easy if they were trying to get people to buy new PC’s.

4 – Microsoft also made sure that the large bulk of hardware and associated drivers that work with Vista will also work with Windows 7. So again, there was a consious effort on Microsoft’s behalf to make sure people did not have to buy new PC’s / hardware to enjoy Windows 7.

5 – Microsoft gave free upgrades with purchases of new Vista PC’s in the lead up to Windows 7’s launch. If you bought a new PC in the few months leading up to Windows 7 launch (in Australia, anyway) you received a free voucher for a Windows 7 upgrade. A free voucher that would make the Vista PC you just bought into a Windows 7 PC in a few months… for free. (Free also meaning there were no hardware upgrades necessary, and thus no hardware upgrade costs either.)

6 – Look at the Microsoft Press Release CI are using as proof that Microsoft is trying to encourage people to buy new hardware. At no stage does the press release say people should go and buy a new PC. In fact, at one stage, the press release says “Customers can purchase PCs with Windows 7 or software upgrades online or in-store from technology retailers”. ‘Upgrades’ being the key word there.

I could go on with more reasons, but let’s face it, CI got this one pretty wrong. Given it’s size and dominant presence in the world software industry, Microsoft presents an easy target for consumer rights group. Everyone likes to read about how “Bad” global corporations have been, so I think there’s perhaps a chance Microsoft’s inclusion in the “Bad Company Awards” is to drum up some excitement / interest. Admittedly, there have been occasions in the past where, either intentially or accidentally, Microsoft has found itself in trouble with consumer rights group, but Consumers International is far from the mark this time. I’d go as far as to say they’ve been very “Bad” themselves, since they have not shown what we need to be able to rely on from consumer rights organisations – that is, being properly informed, and impartial in their findings.

11
May
09

Engagement vs Advertising: the key decision in your viral marketing campaign

When planning a viral campaign, you’ve got to decide on a balance between your messaging being focused on what I see as ‘Advertising’ vs ‘Engaging’. Advertising vs Engagement are not necessarily mutually exclusive measures – they fit more on a sliding scale:

1 – the pure Advertising approach jams a marketing message down consumer throats. Marketers usually feel inclined to use this sort of messaging to ensure whatever attention their (hopefully) viral campaigns get leads directly to consumption of the marketing message they are communicating. The Advertising approach means that your brand message is clear, but it may limit the reach of your viral campaign, because let’s face it, ads have never been among any of the big time viral videos. People don’t usually spread content that is obviously advertising.

2 – the Engagement approach is different in that it focuses first and foremost on the content, making sure that whatever content is featured in your (hopefully) viral campaign is clever / inspiring / controversial enough to ensure a large number of people will pass it on to others. It is about engaging some sort of emotional response from a significant enough proportion of the public to reach that viral tipping point so that you start to get hundreds of thousands of views rather than thousands. However, the greater the viral ‘infectiousness’ (i just made that word up!) of your campaign, the lower the opportunity for brand messaging and the greater the potential for confusion.

To illustrate, let’s take 2 similar viral campaigns, both based on a similar idea of creating short films to attract people to consume campaign assets. The first campaign is the recent http://Chromeshorts.com efforts by Google, and the second being one of my alltime favourite online campaigns, Zune Arts (about 2 years old now, still going strong). The difference between the Advertising vs Engagement approach is well illustrated by these two campaigns – Google seem to have gone the ‘Advertising’ route, whilst Zune have gone the ‘Engagement’ route. Looking at some of the Google videos, the ‘short films’ are not really short film, rather they are just a nifty little ad (see example below). This is fine, but I can’t see myself passing this around to friends (except of course to discuss here why the content is not necessarily suited to a viral campaign). The content’s just not interesting enough.

The Zune Arts campaign, however, had me browsing the site for 45 minutes the first time I visited –  the content is so rich and immediately engages the audience (see the second video below for example). I’ve also been back for multiple visits, and have shown a number of other people. However, I left the site none the wiser about Zune’s product features / value proposition (I wasn’t even shown a product shot in any of the short movies). The content was cute and I liked the Zune brand all the more for providing it, but I still own an iPod…

One of the Google Chrome ‘Chrome Shorts’ vids

One of the Zune-Arts.net vids

I’m interested to hear if anyone has examples of viral campaigns that they feel have struck a really strong combination of Advertising vs. Engagement. I invite you to leave your comments below…

18
Sep
08

Microsoft’s new ad campaign: case study in starting online controversy Pt.2

DISCLAIMER: I’m still contracting at Microsoft, so take what I say with a grain of salt 🙂 I’m still also a fan of Windows.

So Seinfeld got dropped from the ads. No surprise really. With an ad campaign basically saying “Yeh, so we’re out of touch” which really did nothing except celebrating being out of touch, the writing was on the wall. Jerry was an interesting choice for a number of reasons, not the least because he was featured in an Apple ad back in the day, but really, he had to go.

However, his departure does not necessarily make this campaign a failure. It is still generating so much conversation and controversy, which still appears to be a good thing – all eyes are firmly focused on Microsoft at the moment. Are they f–kin up, or are they doing something completely crazy and new? Whether dropping Jerry was a planned planned tactic or not, Microsoft is:

  1. Once again the centre of attention right now
  2. Showing that it is adaptive. Some people think the ads sucked. What better way to tell your customers you are listening than to change the campaign to suit?

I still reserve judgment about whether this is a good campaign or not because as I have mentioned I don’t know where the campaign’s going. But every time any little details about the campaign come out, it’s hitting TechCrunch, Engadget and most of the other popular news sites, aswell as a good number of the Apple blogs and fansites (eg/ TUAW), so leveraging that momentum and attention is going to be critical.

Image from Engadget

Rumours reported on Engadget suggest there may be a more direct reaction by Microsoft to Apple’s aggressive “I’m a Mac” campaigns in the future releases. This is actually what I have wanted to see from the start. There is alot of (borderline) misinformation in the Mac ads (less than technical people have told me Macs can’t get viruses and can’t crash, so from that perspective, the ads seem to be working somewhat). 

This is a perfect battleground for Microsoft to take back some of what was theirs. They really need to address the damage the “I’m a Mac” ads did. I’m envisioning guys in fluoro Spandex roller blading through Central Park in NY doing crazy extreme stuff like going backwards (sic – I’m being sarcastic there in case that didn’t come across) and giving high fives to each other and generally being trendy dicks. All listening to white headphones (for the vision impaired and slightly slow, iPod has white headphones) Fade out. Product shot of Zune.  No B.S. – thats Microsoft. Thats what I’d be doing…

EDIT – 19/9/08: Third ad in the campaign, minus Jerry, has been seen at Gizmodo. It’s not bad, really it’s not. Without being too combatitive, it definitely moves towards dispelling the nerdy image Apple branded MS with. Tony Parker is in there. Tony Parker’s the man. And he’s a PC!

EDIT 2 – 19/09/08: Wow, talk about saturation bombing!! The following PC / Windows ads went live on US TV tonight (PST)

http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=HrmF-mPLybw

http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=7hhVjSbV_oQ

http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=wj5UyZKo2iE 

15
Sep
08

Microsoft’s new ad campaign: a case study in how to start online controversy

I’m as close to a Windows fanboy as you can get without having to do something demeaning to win a piece of Windows-branded clothing at a trade show somewhere. There, thats my disclosure. Friends have been asking what I think of the new Gates / Seinfeld ads as much as what they used to ask me what I thought about the old Apple ads – being a PC guy, I thought the Apple ads sucked :). To be honest, I don’t yet know what I think of the new MS ads, because I’ve only seen the first and second one – I don’t know where it’s going, and am not privvy to knowing what will unfold in the coming releases in the series. One thing is for sure, it looks like the guy shooting the footage came straight from the bar. Thats how you achieve edgy camera work for minimal budget – get a wino to do it. 

The extended, 4 minute long version of ad 2.

At any rate, people are talking about it. There are over 3100 Diggs for the blog post on the second ad on Engagdet. I think the key to this discussion is in it’s complete and bewildering obscurity (in this regard it reminds me of Demitri Martin & the Clearification campaign for Vista). I’ve been following various email trails amongst friends and colleagues speculating what people think the ads are really about – the favoured theory is that each of the characters are a metaphor for various people and products in the Apple / PC firefight that Apple kicked off in earnest with their ads… the little girl may or may not be Mac apparently (thats pure speculation so don’t quote me).

Anyway, in wrapping this up, if this is not buzz, then what is? It’s a different story, of course, whether buzz translates to results.

EDIT – 18/09/08: So Jerry’s been dropped from the ads. Hardly surprising.




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