Monday, December 3, 2012

Can someone tell Microsoft’s Surface it’s not an iPad?

Because it sure advertises like one!

Surface came out of nowhere, didn’t it? I’m in the tech industry and even I didn’t see it coming!

Now that it’s here, Microsoft is laying down dollars to promote the hell out of it.

Have you seen this commercial yet?

It seems to pop up during at least three of the four commercial blocks on my Hulu.

I’ll admit, I like it.

The ads are stimulating, bright, and, dare I say, ‘snappy?’

But when you’re up against the iPad, that doesn’t cut it.
When the guy to beat holds 55% of the user base (and that’s down 14% from Q2 ’12), you have to be more focused in your approach.

Now I know what you’re thinking – part of demand stimulation is intrigue! You can’t lay all your specs out there if you’re depending on a bit of mystery to drive store traffic and conversion.

Fine. So run the flashy, catchy, say-nothing-about-the-product dance number UNTIL product launch.

Not after.

After, money would be better spent using the sixty seconds to explain WHY Surface is the better buy.

It should be a direct appeal that proactively quells doubters.
“We know your love your iPad – we’re quite fond of it too.
Here’s where Surface comes in to play and here’s why you need it.”

When you lead the market, preside over a band of cult-like brand advocates and show no sign of stopping, then you can blow your commercial spots dancing around.

Until then, you have to make a harder case; you have to show features. You have to grovel for the opportunity to convince.


  1. Hey Dan,
    I usually think you're pretty spot on with your analyses, but I gotta disagree with you on this one. I don't think this looks like an Apple ad at all, and I think it highlights key differences from iPad. And I think your suggestion that MS should be promoting things like specs for a device like this isn't the right approach either. I think MS did an excellent job with this ad.

    Truth is, most people don't CARE about specs in categories like this. Has Apple ever advertised the processor speeds or RAM for any of their iDevices? The competition's ads are falling flat specifically BECAUSE they are promoting things like "look! It has a 2.5Ghz processor! And 4GB of RAM! And a stylus that you probably will never use!" Some competitor's products have bigger/faster/better components that what Apple uses in their products, but that doesn't matter; the average Joe doesn't care about that. What can I *DO* with it? What sort of emotion does this ad elicit? These are two areas that Apple's marketing excels in, and I think the latter is what MS was going for with this ad, but with a different spin than Apple. It's a clear break from Apple's plain white background with a detached Caucasian hand that you lamented about a few months ago. As you said, this ad is the opposite - it's bright, colorful and has a more playful spirit than Apple's. It highlights a unique and modern UI vis a vis the aging iOS one. And it highlights another key differentiator - the touch keyboard, and drives it home visually and audibly with that cute little "click" sound throughout the ad. It's fresh and memorable, different from Apple, yet doesn't fall into the trap that others have fallen into with dishing out meaningless specs to consumers who don't know what they mean or care. I say kudos to MS on this one.

    1. Hi Chase-r

      As always, thanks for reading.

      Allow me to clarify on a number of points I perhaps left to vague. The ad “feels” Apple to me not because of physical elements (THANK GOD it’s not the Caucasian finger against a white background (good memory)) – but because it celebrates a product without even beginning to demonstrate its use.

      You’re right – no one cares about Ghz, RAM, processing speed (and thank goodness for Apple’s sake) – but with this round of ads and given where it fits in the product life cycle (post initial launch) – I think they need to lure users in with a walk through basic tasks.

      You have to figure there are two primary audiences here.
      1. Apple users that might happen to be dissatisfied with their iPad (or, if not dissatisfied, at least ambivalent towards).

      a.For them, Microsoft needs to call out areas they excel (not in hardware, but software/use of apps/general UI).
      i. Floating tiles – we see quick flashes of them, but how about a quick visual elaboration on how they reorganize and promote based on given variables?

      2. Potential tablet users currently not loyal to any particular brand.

      a. For these individuals, simple glimpses that answer basic questions.
      i. Can I play Angry Birds? – oh, there’s a glimpse of it, I guess so.
      ii. Can I easily access Facebook? – oh there’s a girl combing through her feed, doesn’t that look simple!

      While I agree it’s different than apple and the snap + keyboard is genius – I still think we could use a bit of a deeper demo of the user interface and less dancing. ;)

      I hope you buy one and bring it to town later this month – I’d like to get my hands on it.

      Happy Blogging!