In light of Microsoft Vista’s tardy, ho-hum arrival–and its incomprehensible, off-strategy “Wow!” marketing campaign–let’s revisit, and hopefully debunk, a commonly held myth about Microsoft, namely, that the company has “bad” technology, but compensates with it’s “good/great” marketing.
Even a cursory trip through Microsoft’s marketing past can serve as convincing testimony that Microsoft’s marketing is often ineffective, and often as strange as the company’s top executives can be at times.
1. We’ve seen their creepy/cheesy Microsoft Bob campaign, which combined the grade school quality visuals of the interface itself with a David Lynch-like “you’ll be safe in the Bob’s small town-type environment” ad campaign…
2. We’ve seen their hypocritical “Your potential, our passion” ads–hypocritical because they convey the idea that Microsoft truly cares about helping small companies grow and fulfill their dreams, despite the company’s long history of monopoly-leveraging and small company annihilation (Netscape comes to mind, but of course there are many others)…
3. And lately we’ve seen its tagline for Zune: “Welcome to the Social,” which reads more like a Mad-Lib than a tagline, inviting the inevitable question, “Welcome to the Social WHAT?”
And now comes the long, long, long-awaited Vista launch, with its attendant marketing campaign.
And the verdict? It’s another clunker.
In the TV commercials trumpeting Vista, we see people watching a moonlaunch, discovering a mountain, learning difficult gymnastics moves, and even exploring the Great Wall of China; and after each of these amazing experiences, an awestruck actor utters the tagline du jour: “Wow!”
First of all, business guru Tom Peters did the “Wow!” thing more than 10 years ago, and to much better effect.
But more importantly, why would you use your tremendous marketing power to play up the “Wow!” aspect of a product which, after five years of development and 50 million lines of code, is eliciting lukewarm reviews at best? Even the Wall Street Journal’s Walter Mossberg, that dependable Everyman of technology critics, called Vista “unexciting,” and derivative of Apple’s Mac OS 10.
So Vista’s “Wow!” campaign is just the latest example of Redmond’s tin ear for marketing; you’d think that bringing in $45 billion a year would enable them to create a compelling, on-strategy campaign, but no. Maybe it’s up to relative newcomer/tech pioneer Ray Ozzie to help Microsoft finally synch up its marketing efforts with the zeitgeist–or, at the very least, to develop marketing that doesn’t make people go “Huh?” instead of “Wow!”