For years, Microsoft has taken heat on their marketing, or their lack of it, to the consumer market, especially when compared to Apple. Simply put—they just don’t get it!
Yes on occasion they come up with a really cool campaign and the market is both surprised and impressed all in one. But those feelings usually don’t last because Microsoft doesn’t stick to any marketing, let alone what works!
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Microsoft, in fact I like them and if you get me talking about OneNote, you’ll see me turn into a school girl with a crush, like iJustine had on Steve Jobs. I just hate their marketing (which is why they should hire me 😉 ). They have had so many missed opportunities, and continue to miss new ones. Though in all fairness it has been getting better (I think).
So just what is the difference between Microsoft and Apple’s marketing?
Contrary to what you may be thinking, it has nothing to do with traditional marketing mistakes like: wrong target market or demographics, or who is putting it together. Instead, it has everything to do with how they approach or appeal to those target markets and demographics!
The difference is Apple knows they are a B2C business, Microsoft is still in the process of figuring that out.
Until recently, Microsoft was not really a part of the consumer market, while Apple has primarily resided there.
Apple went out on a limb in 2006 by creating the Mac vs. PC marketing campaign. As funny as it was, and as well received as it was by the entire market (their prospects, customers, and non-Apple buyers as well), the result created the perception that Microsoft and Apple were direct competitors—which was not true then. Apple has made some progress in becoming more of a direct competitor in the years since, though it still is not completely true.
What Apple did was change how people think of the two companies—they were successful in influencing the perception of the relationship of the companies. They created a perception that Microsoft and Apple were competing on the same playing field, in the same game—the consumer market where Apple had years of experience and Microsoft had almost none. As a short-term strategy, this was a phenomenal idea—long term, well that still has yet to be seen. But, it has forced Microsoft down the road of accepting that they need to become a B2C business. Or at least appeal to the consumer market.
The product and campaign that really established Apple as a serious company with staying power was the now ubiquitous iPod. In the commercial they showed average everyday Joes walking and listening to music. The Joes blended into society which is what we are taught to do. But then they showed Joe’s shadow dancing and expressing himself as he truly is.
The iPod allowed and encouraged the freedom of personal expression while allowing the person to conform to the daily demands of life—that is iGenius!
Microsoft on the other hand, who traditionally has had a primarily corporate clientele has never had to focus on the glitz, glamor, sex-appeal, or personal expression of individuals, was now being thrust into that world. Not just by Apple, but by the media, and by customers and prospects alike.
Microsoft changed the landscape of the work environment and the public knew that. They now wanted to know why Microsoft couldn’t they do that for the home or personal life? The fact that Windows powered most computers didn’t count. Until Windows 7 and more-so with Windows 8, it just wasn’t really part of the home or personal “experience”.
As Microsoft began to respond to the market’s demands, they were met with hesitation, resentment, and just plain hatred. No matter what they tried, it seemed as if everything was a failure—from a consumer’s perspective. It got to a point where people were hating anything that was Microsoft just because it was Microsoft! This caused (or forced) them to put their efforts into more of a grassroots approach to change the market’s opinions and to be able to leverage the power of family.
As technology and communications continued to help blur the line between work time and family time, the more Microsoft focused their efforts on being the solution that brought families together, giving them more family time and making it enjoyable, fun, and most importantly easy. They faced the challenge of showing that their products could be used at home and by all ages…remember Kylie?
While Microsoft is making progress with this approach, they are still missing the key element that people ultimately desire—the freedom of personal expression.
Most people work because they have to. Family for many is an obligation—personal expression is priceless! Personal expression allows people to feel free and creative; like they have options and choices that are their own and still allow them to live with the day to day demands of life. That is what Microsoft is still missing.