Growing up in the Young & Rubicam school of strategic planning, I’m a big believer in the notion of relevant differentiation. Years removed from my planning days, I still judge the advertising I’m exposed to against this concept. So today when I viewed TV spots for two new Microsoft ad campaigns, I was surprised at how one company could simultaneously succeed and fail at their attempt for relevant differentiation.
Kinect for Xbox 360
This arguably is the strongest of the three launch spots. In a very simple and adorable manner, Microsoft cleverly demonstrates what makes the Kinect different from the Wii or Playstation Move. The moment the children drop to the floor, it completely sold me. This truly isn’t like any other video game peripheral. The otherads do a fine job demonstrating the tagline, “You Are The Controller”, but do so using gameplay that at first blush looks no different than a group playing Wii Sports together. Cute kids + interesting finger gestures + falling to the floor = you’ve never played a game like this before.
Windows Phone 7
Really Microsoft…really? Is the ad entertaining? Yes. Is it relevant? Most definitely. When it comes to being totally absorbed with the iPhone, I am the guiltiest party. So this ad has relevance for days. But where is the differentiation? There is a promise of differentiation with the hint of the clever Windows Phone 7 (I could do a whole post on horrible product nomenclature) UI at the end. But that is hardly a compelling product demonstration.
Microsoft has become the tech brand we love to hate. Although it continues to develop some amazingly well designed products (Xbox 360, Photosynth, Bing), people don’t view the company as an innovator. So if you plan to make a big statement about being different, you need to demonstrate just how different you are. Both this ad and the other launch ad do nothing to prove Microsoft has created something wholly different from iPhone or Android.
Clearly the ads aimed at grabbing our attention first and foremost. But while they may generate awareness, they fail to change opinion. Microsoft has to win both hearts and minds and they need to do so by demonstrating differentiation first and foremost.