Apple got a lot of attention with its “PC vs Mac” commericals. They were simple, funny, well-scripted and seemed to capture the essence of what Mac people love about their Macs.
Clearly, they got under Microsoft’s skin, because the crack Seattle Rapid Response team has leapt into action (what, three years later?) with an expensive riposte: the “I’m a PC” campaign.
The result is wrong in so many ways, I can’t summarise them all in a blog post. Hitting the lowlights:
- It’s needlessly defensive – Microsoft owns the PC market. Why the hell are they stooping down to swat at a niche player? Real leaders should never look back, down or to the side. They only look ahead.
- It’s over-produced – This one spot cost more than fifteen of the Mac commercials. Which kind of proves Apple’s point. Guerrilla marketing will always be cooler than Madison Avenue marketing (or wherever Big Agency lives these days).
- It backfires – Microsoft is not content with market share, mega-profits and virtual ubiquity. It desperately craves the one thing it can’t have: coolness. So instead of letting go of cool (the only cool thing to do), they concoct this shrill howl. It isn’t just not cool. It’s watching your Dad dance.
- It proves the opposition’s case – They want to say, “We’re creative and interesting too!”. But by assembling this cast of PC-people (in both senses), Microsoft sends the message, ‘We are everyperson.’ And everyone is no one. Bland. Boring. Even though some have beards and some scuba dive and some don’t even comb their hair.
The whole exercise reminds me of an embarrassing bit of greenwashing that Ford did a few years ago. The CEO barked, “Make us look green!” and the hapless marketing department was caught without a plan. They cranked out a glossy insert packed with every mini-credential they could muster. One was, “The roof on this factory is covered in grass!” (neglecting to mention that the factory belched out 200,000 F150 trucks at about 18 miles per gallon each). Another said, “our design team has four vegetarians.” (I’m not joking).
I’m sure Microsofties are enjoying their foray into “I know you are but what am I?” marketing. Turning the other cheek can be excruciating when you know you could kill your enemy with one blow. But internal morale-boosting and good marketing are two very different things. And Microsoft now looks like the kid who discovered bell-bottoms about three parties after they went out of fashion. Blush.