Visual Storytelling - T. Benjamin Larsen's Blog

Windows without walls?

Apple (the Macintosh-maker, not the fruit) have been rather successful with their «Get a mac» campaign. The whole campaign is based on poking at Microsoft and while it is done in a humorous manner the Seattle giant have been less than thrilled.

A collection of «Get a Mac»-ads from youtube

This week they launched a new commercial as part of their $300 million campaign to improve Windows Vista’s tarnished image.

Microsoft’s new «I’m a PC»-ad

As a whole I think Microsoft (or their advertising company) have done a great job. The quick presentation of different people from all walks of life, all being «PCs», seems well suited to strike an emotional chord with the audience. Heck, they’ve even sprinkled it with a handful celebrities! As a piece designed to win mind-share and reassure their users it should work brilliantly. I don’t think it’ll improve Windows market-share though, but then again they have something like 90% alread. I think even Steve Ballmer acknowledge the possibility that a tenth of the human population might actually prefer something else.

I think the commercial fails when it comes to convincing dissatisfied Windows-users to stay with the program. If you’re frustrated with your computer «everyone else does it» is a meek point. Particularly when Apple is targeting this demographic directly (and looking at the numbers, quite successfully). Microsoft is hardly oblivious to Apple’s attack though, and handles it with aplomb and miss the target completely - all within a minute!

Microsoft’s new slogan is a stroke of genius: «Windows - Life Without Walls». It lends itself to spoofs (try replacing that ‘w’ with a ‘b’ or how exactly does windows work without walls? etc). But this could be a good thing if MS is looking to build mind-share. Every spoof, no matter how brutal, will help people remember the product. It is also brilliant in more ways than one:

  • It’s a pun, which makes it easy to remember

  • It gives a positive message about the endless possibilities a PC can offer

  • It could be read as a subtle attack at Macs as these force you to buy from one company

But as I’ve already mentioned, they’ve also made a grave mistake. The very first part of the commercial directly refers to Apple’s campaign. They have simply taken Apple’s «PC»-character and tried to change his message. My immediate reaction was that this was kind of cute, but after having some time to think about it I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a disastrous decision and this is why: They remind people of Apple’s campaign.

Why on earth would you want to remind people about your competitor? Especially as this competitor is targeting the dissatisfied people among your users? It also gives Apple ample opportunity to bite back. How long will it take before we’ll see John Hodgman* selling fish or sporting a beard? It’s not like MS offers much Apple can’t match and by doing this they make sure almost every blogger or journalist writing about their campaign will also mention Apple...

*The actor portraying PC in Apple’s ads


Underdog attack!

OK, first a small confession. I'm something of a Mac-head and yes I do love a lot of their products. Apple have always used the fact that they're "different" for what it's worth. As "standard" Windows-PC's, at least traditionally, have been about as exciting as.. cricket (sorry cricket-fans) this makes a lot of sense. Apple's current campaign "I'm a mac" continues the trend and I believe this is a strategy that makes a lot of sense for a smaller company. People instinctively root for the underdog and there is something to be said about having a product that differs from the masses as well.

So why doesn't Microsoft do the same thing with their Zune-player? Now, I haven't seen one of these yet, but reckon they must be OK. Having Microsoft's deep-pockets, media-interest and advertisement-budgets could well help it to become something of a hit. It's not an iPod and for some people it seems that's the most important specification any MP3-player could have...