Microsoft will be playing me-too this Christmas with Zune, an iPod rival that, apparently, wasn’t a surprise to the tech observers out there. Those who doubted its resolve before Xbox came out to challenge Playstation will probably not do the same: Microsoft’s marketing muscle and the general absence of the Microsoft name and visual branding will probably endow the gadget with a sense of cool for the holidays.
Xbox was a wise move, and as each iteration has been released, Microsoft has reﬁned the branding more, even to the point of commissioning its own typeface. One can bet that Zune will follow suit. Observers expect Microsoft to have an iTunes rival ready—otherwise Zune becomes just another gloriﬁed MP3 player. (Let’s also hope it’s less ugly and dull.)
It’s hardly original, but Microsoft has almost deﬁned its brand over the last generation as a follower, a computeresque Procter & Gamble that produces things that most people will love. When you have money behind the idea, number two is not too bad a position to be in, because that can often mean number one in sales—as Toyota will no doubt attest with its Corolla.
Zune merely conﬁrms it, and if anyone wondered whether the cool factor would be lost because of how Bill Gates dresses, then they shouldn’t worry. People found plenty of reasons to buy an Xbox and ignored the Microsoft connection; just as many ignore that many of New Zealand’s food brands are French-owned, such as Just Juice.
There is still some proof, therefore, that the ideas of old can still work to push people into consumerist tendencies—but they only work with a wad of cash behind you. But in Microsoft’s defence against the cynic (like me), this is the market orientation at work, too: few companies can band together to produce a convincing rival, regardless of the spend. There is something very right at play at Redmond, something we hardly give credit to the company for because it is a giant.
Still, for everyone else, we have to work in the 21st century, with 21st-century techniques. If we want to get the kudos of Xbox or Zune, then we need to out-think them. Innovative marketing techniques such as getting word of mouth electronically, being one with customers, and not practising a top–down approach as Microsoft will do. When you don’t have millions on a global marketing campaign, you produce something that is so compelling that people automatically want to be part of it. That often means studying the fringe, taking a chance on an idea which, when brought into the organization with a market orientation, will ﬁnd success.
In the meantime, getting the brand and the marketing structure right are a good start—then let the innovative ideas ﬂow.
Who knows? We might come up with the next big gadget for Christmas 2007. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:52
I wonder what microsoft's hook will ble in this endevour. The xbox had wonderful online abilities and gave it a slight advantage (not in install base apparently) to the ps2. So with this, how will they out do apple? (or at least true). IMHO there is room for improvement on the ipod...mainly in usability. I guess time will tell.
I agree, Shane, and I believe usability and scale are where Microsoft could attack, via Windows Live. Plus the vagaries of fashion: iPod will be passé by year’s end, and Zune may simply out-market the Apple entrant.Post a Comment
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