I like the new Windows campaign


Having participated in the PC business as a manufacturer for 12 years, I’ve had a varying relationship with Microsoft.  The manufacturers chafe at their much lower value (profit) capture in the PC equation, but rely on Microsoft to catalyze demand, and do all other manner of enablement in a $250 billion market.  So, PC makers work and hope for success in Microsoft’s marketing, while aspiring to less dependency.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had opportunities to engage Microsoft in discussion on their marketing strategies, [thanks Kevin, Dave, and Bill…no, another Bill].  So I have a view of facts and philosophies that underlie the campaigns we see in market.  I’ve had concerns with certain approaches taken in the past year, but the TV advertising running now I think is quite good.

Things I like about the campaign, called Laptop Hunter:

1) it claims ownable points of positioning in the name of all Windows PCs:

a) variety of product options

b) value-for-money vs. Apple

2) using real people makes it credible

3) there is some support for PC brands (HP, Sony, Lenovo…)

Laptop Hunter establishes Windows’ own voice, and takes initiative in the argument, rather than responding.  [The start of the “I’m a PC” work last fall I thought was too shaped by Apple’s “I’m a Mac.”  It sounded like Windows finally stood up to the playground bully that had been taunting it for years, but was just shouting “I’m not a dork! I’m cool!” in a strained voice.]  I love the moment in the new Lauren spot where she sarcastically says “I guess I’m not cool enough for a Mac” – a frosty defense of all PC owners against the derision of Macophiles.

I also like the support for PC manufacturer brands.  Note: when people tell you they bought a computer, they say “I bought a Dell” (or a ThinkPad, or an HP) or “I bought a Mac.”  If they bought a Windows PC, they do not say “come and see my new Windows computer.”  They name the manufacturer brand.  So, while I certainly believe Windows PC as a category needs to take some high ground back from Apple, it is important that the final package, the manufacturer brand, is also strengthened.  And the PC makers can’t afford to do this on their own, so they work with Microsoft.  The challenge for a PC brand is to ride the Windows wave while retaining a distinctive identity.  (See post PCs are not commodities for more on this.)

My two minor reservations:

1) The spots throw in the “I’m a PC” line at the end, which I don’t like, because it is simply not something a person would say, so it undermines credibility; and it reminds of the entertaining Apple ads.

2)  The shopping environment portrays PCs as commoditized.  There are huge numbers of options (i.e., permutations of speeds and feeds), and even comments about the coolness of the niftier Mac section.  This is, sadly, an accurate portrayal, but it skirts the edge of reinforcing Apple’s image of betterness.

Overall, kudos Microsoft!  I hope you keep going in this direction.


5 Responses to “I like the new Windows campaign”

  1. 1 Alan Hart April 15, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Craig, this post I found by a new blogger friend is worth a read on this topic (http://blog.girvin.com/?p=2729). Warning, it is a long post but great content.

    • 3 Craig Merrigan April 16, 2009 at 12:33 pm

      BusinessWeek spends a lot more lines on product comparison and competitive strategy than on the ad campaign. I think what Arik Hesseldahl is saying is that the latest ads are bad because the product value proposition is bad.

      Underlying Arik’s commentary are two premises I agree with, passionately. 1) Your brand promise (and advertising) can only be powerful if it is true (if the products are not affordable or capable, the ads don’t work). 2) Product differentiation can earn higher prices among those who value the differentiators.

      But I disagree both with his assessment of the product value, and of the campaign.
      On product, Microsoft will likely reply with an in-depth analysis of price/value, so I will just hit a couple of points. First, the price of Apple products is dramatically higher than Windows PCs. The current average price for a notebook is almost 100% higher! This is a gigantic difference in a recession ($500). Arik addresses this by pointing out the price of feature sets that come with Apple, and not on low price PCs, but this is a fallacy. Let’s take the photo editing example. With Windows Live Photo Gallery, or Google Picasa, a user can get capabilities well beyond the average user’s needs, for free. Arik is right in stating that one would need to spend $140 to upgrade all photo editing features to match Apple’s iLife, but this like saying there are hidden costs in a VW Jetta, because you need to pay for tuning to get it to match a Porsche 911’s acceleration. The Jetta buyer doesn’t value speed enough to pay the difference. That is why there are different market segments. Many computer buyers don’t value the differentiators of Apple (including the cooler-than-you image) enough to pay for them.

      If Arik is calling for PC makers to improve their efforts to create ownably distinct value propositions (and brands!), I’m in staunch agreement, as I’ve written. But this doesn’t mean everyone should add features and design which double the price. It means they should pick their segments, and create products that people will jump up and down for. For the teenager who wants more portable Web time in a cute package, that might be a $379 netbook. Lenovo does this with high end ThinkPads, with business executives in mind.

      Back to the ads. Microsoft is taking a tack which is timely (features for price), relevant and ownable. It is rooted in the truth: you can get impressive functionality for a surprisingly low price. I still hope they drop the “I’m a PC” line, and avoid rooting the PC value proposition too firmly in price.

  2. 4 Shimon April 19, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Craig, I agree with you almost on everything. In your reservation about “I’m a PC” I agree too, but actually think it is not minor issue at all if left as is. It is a big issue not only for the reasons you mention, but also because it is a missed opportunity. Microsoft should leverage on Apple’s ads and play with it with some humor and break the image Apple stuck them with. many ways to do it, but I will not start getting creative here.

  3. 5 Greyson Davis April 27, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Great post

    Completely agree with the “I’m a PC” comments. Microsoft needs to cut ties and run from that ASAP…it just doesn’t work. No one thinks of Microsoft as a brand they would allow to define them, and that’s fine.

    I do like the PC hunter spots, however, wonder if there has been any skepticism as to how “staged” the spots may be and thus on knock on credibility.

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