I have been traveling in Europe for the past few weeks so I’m behind on my posts but there was one event that I had to comment on – Microsoft’s recent parody videos that they posted then pulled from YouTube.
There have been plenty or articles written about how they were painful to watch and not funny at all. They have all the inner sadness and desperation you feel if you have ever watched a stand-up comedian stand up in front of a club and tell jokes to completely silence. The lack of humor is compounded by the fact that the ads look like they were written and produced overnight with a production quality that makes them look like they were for internal use only. But I wanted to talk about them because I think that if you look at the details these video will show you everything that is wrong with Microsoft from a cultural and brand perspective.
For those who might have missed them, Microsoft wanted to get a laugh at the expense of Apple’s embracing a flat design aesthetic so they released seven videos called “A fly on the wall in Cupertino”. The video are clearly supposed to be set in Cupertino as two employees pitch to a Steve Job’s looking executive. The employees arrive late and blame the iWatch, makes fun of the new iPhone colorways and ends with the male employee saying “That was a month of work right there,” suggesting that these small changes are the only innovation the new phones offer. The work was obviously universally panned and after only a few hours the videos were pulled with comments from Microsoft’s executives who only commented that they were “off the mark.”.
Their main line ad campaign also tries to take on Apple with a Microsoft Surface performing tasks sitting next to an iPad with Siri commenting on the iPad doesn’t measure up. These ads are more successful from a writing and production standpoint but they lack what I think all Microsoft advertising lacks – emotion.
Samsung and Google have both proven that you can mock Apple really effectively if you combine feature comparison with some human truths that will resonate with people and build you brand. I think that you have to be able to trace Samsung’s recent rise in the smart phone market back to their entertaining and accurate depictions of Apple fanboys who were lined up at new product launches. Google has also launched the Moto X with ads that don’t mention the iPhone by name but there are obvious references to ‘slide to unlock’ on the human iPhone that make it clear who they are talking about.
Microsoft needs to realize that their brand standards have to be their standards all the time because those standards need to keep them from creating work like this. The reality is that if you create cheap and styleless work then your brand comes off as cheap and styleless. The ad campaigns for Samsung and Google are funny but more importantly they are done with a maturity, confidence, style and genuine insight which all seem to completely elude Microsoft. The problem is also compounded by their repeated failed launches for products that are supposed to take on Apple products like the Zune vs iPod or the Surface RT vs the iPad. I think all of this adds up to a the fact that Microsoft just doesn’t understand and can’t clearly define their consumer on a branding or product level. Until they are able to do get a clear picture they will continue to struggle with their products and put out more bad commercials like this.