Marketing Surface and Windows 8

by Ben Bajarin   |   October 15th, 2012

The first commercial for Microsoft Surface has aired. After seeing it, I’m not sure Microsoft’s partners should be at all worried about the perceived threat of Microsoft competing with them on the hardware front. The commercial itself does absolutely nothing to communicate any valuable reason why a consumer should even remotely consider buying it over something else. I wrote a column a few weeks ago explaining that in today’s day-and-age it is critical to communicate and message to consumers why they should consider your product over something else.

This is not rocket science. Show the product doing something valuable, something consumers can relate to and associate with. Apple, Google, Samsung, etc., are all doing this by messaging and highlighting in their marketing the key benefits of their products.

The Windows 8 preview ads do a little better job by actually showing some use cases with different products. This may sound odd given the market share Microsoft has in traditional PCs but I firmly believe Microsoft is the odd man out with the momentum in this industry and they are the ones in catch up mode.

From the early pricing we are seeing the upcoming flood of Windows 8 products are not going to be on par with other products from a pricing standpoint. Which by default means price is not in their favor. Because of that consumers must be absolutely clear on why they should care at all about this product.

What does it do that others products don’t? What does it empower me to do that others products don’t? What experiences exist on Windows 8 that don’t exist on other devices?

Success in consumer markets requires a good product and good marketing. I’m reserving judgement on whether or not Windows 8 is a good product. When it comes to the marketing, Microsoft needs to convince consumers Windows 8 is relevant to their current and future market needs. The current ads do not do this in my opinion.

In case you hadn’t seen them yet, here they are:

Microsoft Surface Ads

Windows 8 Preview Ads

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio
  • Oliver Crete

    I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but the fine print near the end says “Colours sold separately”. I’m pretty sure this is definite proof the keyboard will be sold separately. Unless you get a black or white one with it for free.

    • steve_wildstrom

      This is now confirmed by the pricing Microsoft announced this morning. In the U.S., the Surface will start at $499 for a 32 GB version and the cover adds $100.

      • Defendor

        Well at least MS isn’t sucking all the margin out of the Market like Google did with Nexus.

  • Rich

    I watched “The Surface Movement” and I hadn’t the vaguest idea what they were trying to communicate – it just looked like meaningless chaos to me. But then I’ve always thought Microsoft’s whole approach to the Surface was confused. We’ll see what the market thinks.

    • http://twitter.com/qka qka

      At least the Windows 8 ad was only 30 seconds long, vs. the 60 second dance routine that communicated nothing.

  • Grwisher

    From the article: “Show the product doing something valuable, something consumers can relate to and associate with. Apple, Google, Samsung, etc., are all doing this by messaging and highlighting in their marketing the key benefits of their products.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I watched the ads several times and kept scratching my head, wondering WTF is going on here. I concluded that, unlike Apple ads that we are use to seeing, Microsoft evidently doesn’t think it needs to show something useful. MS has been the market leader for so long that it is stuck in the rut of “institutional advertising” that it has successfully employed for years and years. Definition of institutional advertising: “Promotional message aimed at creating an image, enhancing reputation, building goodwill, or advocating an idea or the philosophy of an organization, instead of sales promotion. (BusinessDictionary.com)”

    The problem with this approach is that, IMHO, it only works when you are the market leader and assume that when you introduce a product, sales will be generated with a high degree of certainty. Yes MS is the market leader, but not for tablets. It further proves that MS is trying to sell the consumer a PC, just in a different form (see John Kirk’s lovely article “The Microsoft Surface Was Made For Surfaces…But That’s Not What Tablets Were Made For”). This is an approach that has failed for over a decade. The reason that the keyboard keeps being highlighted reinforces the idea that this product need the keyboard to be useful. This and by itself is an indication that the Surface is DOA.

    The reason we don’t see the genius in these articles is that the consumer is going to see on one hand (Apple) uses for the product. And on the other hand (Microsoft) a bunch of people jumping around clicking their keyboards to the music.

    • Grwisher

      Correction, start of last paragraph: “The reason we don’t see the genius in these articles” should read “The reason we don’t see the genius in these ads”

    • Rich

      “WTF is going on here” pretty much nails it.

    • W. van Dam

      Nice response.

      MS already has a strong image: one of associated with dull grey desktop computers. What I get from the video is that they decided that enhancing or building on that image was simply not going to work for tablets.

      I think they not only messed up with the presentation, but also with the target audience. They should have been aiming for PC users who are missing their keyboard when they are holding an iPad. Instead they showed a bunch of kids dancing around like it’s great fun to have a keyboard that *clicks*.

  • Hieronymus

    High School Musical meets the Surface. That’s what I was thinking when watching the new ad.

    • W. van Dam

      Close. I have to confess to recognizing at least one reference to a dance movie.

  • AppleJunkie

    Microsoft is trying to be cool and hip. It’s not working. Teh Microsoft brand will always be known as nerdy.

    • Microsoft Fanboi

      I think it’s Android that has the nerdy image, not Windows.

  • Larry

    GOGLE RANDORID EFOREVRR

  • diddler

    They had better start explaining that RT doesn’t run your old software because that is going to be a massive issue given their broad non techie audience. i just hope my mother in law is not going to get one.

  • FalKirk

    I decided to mull on this before commenting. I’m going to be contrarian and go the other way. I think the Surface Ad is good. (I think their focus on keyboards is wrong-headed, but that’s a different discussion). I think that Microsoft is trying to draw attention to the product. And i think the ad serves that purpose. Lots of color, lots of motion, lots of excitement. The ad reminds me of the new Apple iPod ad.

  • lucascott

    The Windows 8 preview gives a little taste of the UI so that’s not horrid. But that Surface ad, good lord

  • Siuss

    So it seems that the first ad is keen on being about the magnetic cover/keyboards. I really can’t help but refer to another particular marketing video that’s selling a sort of similar product: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbl_6DmzO4g.
    What a stark contrast between the two!
    The first time I watched Microsoft’s ad, I didn’t really like it. The second time, it sort of grew on me. After that, it just felt like they were trying too hard to be “hip”, “young”, “cool”, “awesome”. It all feels forced. The Smart Cover video may not have the same level of visual pizazz, and it might seem downright boring in comparison, but at least I could mentally grasp everything in 30 seconds. To me, it was delightful, playful (I think Steve Jobs likened it to a Pixar short), yet informative.
    I’m not saying Microsoft should follow the Apple marketing style verbatim, and I understand that they’re trying to not just introduce the cover, but an entirely new product line too, but come on! They can certainly do better than that; it’s not like they’re lacking in resources, size, or influence. I’d love to see the Surface tablets enjoy at least a moderate level of success, but a lot of that is (obviously) dependent on how good/effective their marketing is.