Relationship Trumps Content II: Microsoft Folly

By evoke
December 10, 2010

Microsoft is launching a new ad campaign for its Windows 7 smartphone operating system that is doomed to fail. In a recent Toronto Star article, experts debated the merits of the ads and the positioning developed by Microsoft’s agency, Crispin Porter and Bogusky. Their comments missed the point because it isn’t the ad campaign itself that will cause the ad campaign to fail.

The reason that Microsoft likely won’t gain traction in an important segment of the future digital world is because it is a serial violator of a core Blueprint belief: relationship trumps content. What this means is that if you don’t have the relationship, the content will have little impact. To understand how this works, imagine somebody with whom you have a long-standing and deep relationship. When they say something of interest to you, such as a recommendation for a restaurant or a movie, it carries more weight than if you hear the same thing from somebody you barely know. And when your close friend says something boneheaded, you are far more likely to cut them some slack than if the offending words were said by somebody you don’t know.

Microsoft has a long history of releasing products that are seriously flawed. There is a joke in the industry that its motto is “third time right”. That is, you introduce a product and let the customer be the beta tester. After two rounds of revisions following customer complaints, the product is finally competent.

Over the past 15 years, every release of the Windows operating system has promised the sun and the moon and the stars, but delivered a boatload of bugs and disappointment. This has slowly eroded the credibility of the Microsoft brand, which is another way of saying its relationship with its customers has deteriorated to the point where its trustworthiness is severely compromised.

Contrast this with Microsoft’s biggest competitors, Apple and Google, whose relationships with their customers can be loosely characterized as “you always amaze me”. This allows each of these companies to introduce product after product to an ever-expanding and joyful customer base.  For more understanding on how they do this, see the “Simon Says” blog entry.

More and more, Microsoft’s relationship with its customers is characterized by “I can’t trust you anymore”. This is the context within which people will be hearing the new ads for the Windows 7 smartphone operating system. So the content (the ads) will not resonate because of this lack of relationship. Our prediction is that as creative as its agency is, its campaign will do little to help Microsoft penetrate the smartphone market.

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