Thoughts on Microsoft’s Surface Ad Campaign

In some discussions regarding Windows 8 and Surface, it has occurred to me how miserably Microsoft has failed in advertising the Surface.

Check this ad:

There is no substance to their message.  You can watch this ad 100 times and not understand what is being sold here.

Look at Apple’s ads for the iPad or i-Anything.

“Hey, look at how simple this is!”

“Look at how you can do all the things you want to do easily!”

Their recent ads for the iPad mini are brilliant in its simplicity: just two tablets side by side with people video chatting, playing games, playing apps, etc. They’ve effectively communicated “Hey, it’s the same thing, only smaller” (whether this is true or not) and “It’s so easy, even your grandmother can use it” and “Look, you can stay in touch and communicate so easily with your loved ones!”.

This is what consumers want. Whether iOS is actually easier or not is another debate, but great advertising creates the perception that iOS is indeed the easiest to use. Consumers can connect with this advertising because it is simple, straightforward, and effective in communicating a brand image and embodied that brand image: “It’s so simple, we don’t need gimmicks to sell it.”

What has the Microsoft campaign given us? What is the message? What is the key selling point of the Surface according to these ads? How is Microsoft capturing the market? A bunch of folks dancing around clicking a tablet into a keyboard dock. Is this ad selling me the dock? Is this an accessory? Why do I want to buy this hardware? Does it come with great software? A consumer can’t tell based on that ad. Microsoft has literally given consumers the song and dance — a gimmick, if you will.

This would not be the first time that Microsoft has failed miserably in designing a marketing campaign lest we forget the abomination of those Seinfeld commercials. They had a pretty good stint with Windows Phone, the “I’m a PC” campaign, and the a few clever bing commercials as well. Their tablet marketing campaign has been lackluster and has failed to differentiate themselves from the competitors. They have not demonstrated a reason to choose a Microsoft tablet over an iPad or Android tablet when they could have easily done so with an effective campaign around the software.

There have been many defenders of Microsoft online in various forums, but I’m not sure why there are so many fervent Microsoft defenders when clearly, the Win8 release has been a mess on nearly every possible level from the software architecture to the hardware to the marketing.  “Yeah, but it’s perfectly fine if you do this and that” is not a good defense because the operating system should be usable right out of the box.

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