The Curious Case of Microsoft Marketing

by Ben Bajarin   |   April 24th, 2012

Is it just me or am I missing or not seeing much marketing effort by Microsoft these days? Generally I am very observant to marketing campaigns within our industry due to my conviction of its importance. Because of that I try to pay close attention to tech companies consumer marketing efforts on every medium. This is why it is surprising to me to not see the kind of marketing I would expect for a company with an critical strategic asset in the market with Windows Phone and one that is coming up on the most important Windows launch in over a decade.

When it comes to Windows Phone, most of the marketing efforts I am seeing is either driven by the carriers or by Nokia at this point. Perhaps Microsoft is playing a role in those as well but to be honest even what I am seeing marketing wise around Windows Phone is not enough in my opinion. Windows Phone is incredibly strategic to Microsoft from a Windows brand and platform standpoint. Because of its importance I would have expected Microsoft to saturate the market with branding, messaging, and positioning.

Marketing Like a Record Label

Perhaps Microsoft is taking the approach record labels do when one of their artists is launching a new album. The music industry is so incredibly saturated with artists all competing for consumer mind share. It is nearly impossible, although becoming more possible with Twitter, to keep artists top of mind share all year. Because of this, labels store up marketing budget until the months prior to an artist’s album release in order to raise the artist back into the publics mind. As much as I disagree with this approach in the tech industry perhaps this is the approach Microsoft is taking.

Whatever approach Microsoft is taking they need to take immediate action to elevate their brand and Windows / Windows Phone mind share. This would prime the pump for when Windows 8 finally launches and hopefully make their partners lives easier driving mind share of new Windows products for this fall. I hope Microsoft has a massive marketing campaign planned because I believe it is one of many things critical to the success of Windows 8.

Interestingly, Apple has cracked the code when it comes to branding. I would argue that Apple, more so than any company in this industry, maintains a consistently elevated mindshare. This is due to the tech media’s fascination with all things Apple, their marketing strategy, their event and product release strategy, their retail stores, and host of other well-executed strategies. Due to those strategies employed by Apple it is not surprising that the results of a Nikkei Brand Asia 2012 results show Apple as the number 1 consumer brand in China, Japan, and Taiwan and No. 2 in South Korea ahead of Samsung.

Marketing is best done strategically spread out over time rather than in bulk bursts. The goal should be to maintain share of consumer mind not spike the interest then let them get interested in the next shiny thing to catch their attention.

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
  • http://kaizenity.blogspot.com/ FalKirk

    I’m going to divide my posts. One about Apple. The other about Microsoft.

    It’s really unfair to compare anyone else’s marketing to Apple’s. Apple has reached a whole new stratosphere. They stand alone.

    Apple sells four products: the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Mac. A new iPhone and a new iPad come out every year and twice a year there are lines in stores all around the world. There is simply nothing else like it.

    One final thought. It’s a mistake to think that Apple’s marketing created this phenomenon. Apple marketing is taking advantage of and sustaining the phenomenon. But it was Apple’s fanatical devotion to creating a superior customer experience that created the reciprocal fanatical devotion.

    Many ignore or deny or mock this fact. That is why they don’t get Apple. And that is why they are not as successful as Apple.

    • Rich

      “It was Apple’s fanatical devotion to creating a superior customer experience that created the reciprocal fanatical devotion. Many ignore or deny or mock this fact.”

      You nailed it.

  • http://kaizenity.blogspot.com/ FalKirk

    I agree with the author that Microsoft’s advertising is not making much of an impression on me. And I’m the kind of guy who looks for and watches tech commercials.

    I’m not sure what the problem is. I know it’s not for lack of trying. I’m convinced that Microsoft knows exactly how important the mobile markets are. They are desperate to get in and they are making every effort to do so. So why isn’t it working?

    Let me suggest this. The Windows Phone 7 commercials don’t sell the phone. Let me explain.

    The first Windows Phone 7 commercials were very funny spots that mocked how utterly devoted people had become to their phones. People ran into other people while using their phones, they ignored lingerie-clad partners and ignored all the important people and important events that were going on all around them. Very funny. Very ineffective.

    How, exactly, is making fun of your target demographic going to sell phones? What message was the commercial trying to send – that Windows Phone 7 was the smart phone for people who don’t like smart phones? Why kind of message is that? And even dubious message was the point, did they fully show that their phone was the phone to accomplish that goal?

    Windows Phone 7 has to overcome two powerfully entrenched opponents. They don’t have time to focus on the nuances of their product. They need to get out a single powerful, resonant message. The Nokia adds have the right idea, although I think they picked an overly ambitious (arrogant?) message.

    “The beta-test is over!” Clever. Funny. But…

    - does everyone know what a beta-test is?

    - doesn’t the slogan ring hollow? People are thrilled with their smart phones. The iPhone has a satisfaction rating in the eighties. iPhone users don’t think of themselves as beta-testers.

    - and isn’t it a bit presumptuous of Nokia to assert that their phones are so dramatically better all others? Where’s the proof of that? How exactly are Nokia phones better than our current phones?

    Advertising is a tricky business. It’s far easier to say what doesn’t work than what does. But this is for sure. Microsoft needs to stop doing what it’s doing now. It’s not working. Microsoft needs to settle on a single, powerful message. And Microsoft needs to start saturating the airwaves with that message now, now now.

    It may already be too late for Windows Phone 7. But if there’s still time, that time is running out and running out fast.

    • Rich

      “How, exactly, is making fun of your target demographic going to sell phones?” It isn’t. That’s the perfect criticism of that ad campaign.

      I really think Microsoft doesn’t know what to do with mobile. It’s like they’re stuck in the mindset of the desktop era.

  • mhikl

    Apple has always piqued the interest of all sides. It is and always has been a fascination to the imaginative and the irritated and all because of the balanced exuberance of its leaders and its ability to offer surprise in a realm of conformity. Many thought Big Blue were men in suits and both Apple and MicroSoft were men in casual wear. But, whatever MicroSoft wears to stage, the nuance is men in scruffy blue while Apple continues to look casually well-kempt. MicroSoft has always offered what we expected; Apple always offers what we instantly realise is our dream. MicroSoft is grumpy, pushy blue Merryweather while Apple is nature’s optimist, Flora. We are a hopeful species that quickly tires of glum and delights in surprise and possibilities.