What is “Smoked by Windows Phone” you ask? Check it out!
So yes, this is Microsoft’s latest marketing attempt, with the input of Windows Phone users and fans but not the newly hired corporate VP of Windows Phone marketing Thom Gruhler, to reverse the flagging fortunes of Microsoft in the mobile phone market. It is a clever campaign, but will it make a big difference?
Yes, I am aware of the recent “PR blunder by Windows Phone”reports today… and more on this later, since the bulk of the post you are reading was written over the weekend. But before we get into that, let’s talk a bit about Windows Phone’s history.
When Windows 8 launches, an average person will more likely than not associate the Metro UI with it rather than any other Microsoft products. However, Windows Phone is the first Metro UI product marketed with the Windows brand in this post-PC/PC-plus era. Windows Phone is arguably as important as Windows itself if Microsoft were to be a relevant technology company five years down the road.
In many respects, the introduction of Windows Phone 7 is a prime example of everything that is wrong with Microsoft (e.g., inept marketing, inferior version 1.0 buggy experience) and everything that is right (e.g., platform integration, new focus on user experience). Perhaps that is simply the dialectic nature of things…
While Microsoft probably knew Windows Phone 7’s initial value proposition was relatively weak, it was definitely a surprise that the product more or less completely failed in the market. The current failure is pretty well documented everywhere (see the excellent analysis by Charlie Kindel here), so I won’t cover it here, though it is worth noting that Microsoft seems to have truly learned a few important lessons from the failure and is now attempting a do-over with hardware partner Nokia. Leaked information about what Microsoft and Nokia are planning to do should at least give Windows Phone a fighting chance at AT&T.
So now that we got the history out-of-the-way, let’s go back to the original question I asked: Will “Smoked by Windows Phone” campaign make a big difference? Sadly, the answer is a resounding no. While this campaign does genuinely show the advantages of Windows Phone and perhaps helps with voice share issues, it continues to depict Windows Phone as a primarily utility product (which is technically correct in every sense) rather than a lifestyle choice/experience. I am not saying that the utility aspect is not important, which is why I hope Microsoft can knock it out of the park with Windows Phone 8 (Apollo) and push the Metro user experience to the next level. But I believe that Microsoft should let retail sales professionals (hopefully, someday… hmm, if you’re a Windows Phone fan, you know what I’m talking about), tech blogs, user guides, user communities, and the users themselves answer the utility question. Instead, Windows Phone advertising should focus on answering the lifestyle question.
Maybe the latest PR blunder where Microsoft store employees initially refused to make good on its Windows Phone challenge terms and conditions was a bit of a blessing in disguise. (And kudos to Microsoft and Ben Rudolph for trying to address the blunder as quickly as possible!) A lot of people will use this story to justify their prejudice towards Microsoft and Windows Phone, and perhaps that would force Microsoft to go back and think very hard about how to connect Windows Phone with potential users at an emotional level. (Hint: It is certainly not telling smartphone buyers that you should love your smartphones less.)
(Note: “Really” is really old.)
The need to focus on lifestyle, emotional marketing is not a particularly new or brilliant insight, because during the fall of last year, Ipsos OTX president stated how mobile phones had become our lovers based on market research. In fact, three months before that, a study commissioned by BBDO Worldwide and Microsoft Advertising showed that mobile phones were like “new lovers”.
So the good news is Microsoft is free to answer that questions in almost any way, shape, or form as long as it could manage to convincingly show Windows Phone + whatever hardware is something that users could actually “fall in love” and have a solid relationship with. The bad news is Microsoft is not exactly very good at it, and the actual phones themselves had by-and-large not been lust worthy products. In fact, I would go as far as saying that the minimalistic tendencies of Metro makes it particularly tricky for marketers to convince a regular, potential smartphone buyer that he or she could love Windows Phone. Using the love/relationship analogy, one could think of Windows Phone as the boy or girl next door that someone would never pay attention to because that someone is too busy dreaming about that football captain (e.g., Samsung Galaxy Note) or that head cheerleader (e.g., Apple iPhone 4S). It is hard to convince someone to take Windows Phone out on a date! However, to those who ended up taking Windows Phone out on a date with a two-year contract in the US, most did not regret it.
(Um, yes, in Canada, it is a three-year commitment. I know… most dates should not come with a contract anyway.)
Hopefully, the release of smartphones such as Nokia Lumia 800 and Lumia 900 could begin to turn the bleak situation around. Hey! Windows Phone can be smoking hot and sexy too! (Hmm… I should stop with this love/lust thing before it goes too far.) This is probably the perfect spot to end this post. The most anticipated Windows Phone to date – Nokia Lumia 900 – will be coming to chosen carriers (such as AT&T) near you starting next month.
I have lots to say about Nokia since its fate is now tied to Microsoft and the success of Windows 8. Please stay tuned!