Companies work hard on branding. They also work hard on creating a message that sticks and stands out in a crowd. There are many tools to use in doing so, and one of those tools is the video commercial. Deliver an image, or message that resonates and you can indeed stand out from the crowd and create a lasting impression that not only becomes your image, but sets you in the all important mind of the consumer. Occasionally you can also shove that competition back into the also ran category if you do it right. But if everybody else is already trying to stand out in the same crowd you just fall back in the pack.
When you’re playing catch up to the leaders in any field you need both a clever message and clever ways of conveying that message. Simply echoing the successful message of others doesn’t cut it and that’s exactly what Microsoft has done with its new ad that rolled out today. Called “Not Like Everybody Else” Microsoft and Nokia might has well have called the ad, “We Think Different Too.”
The ad release comes on top of the just completed Microsoft acquisition of Nokia and its aim is obviously to show that Microsoft can now offer a colorful world of mobile alternatives that stand out in a drab, gray world. There are only a few problems with this pitch. First, that drab, gray mobile world has already embraced colorful choices that, by the way, Nokia brought to the game with its smartphones. Even Microsoft embraced that somewhat with its colorful array of Surface keyboards. If color is all you got that makes you different, that was yesterday, not today. Second, it reinforces the message on multiple levels that Microsoft is lagging.
Microsoft may be lagging in market share, but it is the one company with a unique user experience. The crazy thing is the commercial comes out just as Microsoft is starting to gain some momentum and actually get some good press about how it is “thinking differently.” So in and of itself the ad is a poor choice to herald a new beginning. Add to that poor choice of message, the fact that the commercial seems to just tag Microsoft on at the tail end of a Nokia message and it just looks, well, lame. I’m also just not sure of what the back alley setting is supposed to represent. Adding a splash of color to a walk through a back alley is in reality, only adding a splash of color into a stroll through a back alley.
Even the titling and use of the Kinks’ song, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” might be opposite the message Microsoft wants to convey these days. Being unique is one thing, but in my view consumers are still as confused about the Windows Phone 8 (8.1) as they are Windows 8 (8.1). Sadly, different doesn’t seem to be what’s working for Microsoft on that front as evidenced by its recent changes in Windows 8 (8.1) to attract mouse and keyboard users who were turned off.
Microsoft, Apple, Google, Samsung, or name a company that reaches out with this kind of advertising tool and the goal is the same. Get us talking about the ad, but more importantly get us talking about how we see the company. Or rather, how the company wants us to see them.
All of these companies are having some difficult times breaking through with commercials these days. Apple’s recent “Gigantic” ad is a perfect example of this. While I am sure there is a segment of the market that hasn’t gotten the message that you can do amazing things with the iPhone, most of the populace that these kind of commercials target certainly has.
That said, Apple shrewdly timed the release of that commercial to the days before its recent quarterly earnings report that showed the iPhone as its biggest revenue driver. So there may have been a target beyond the consumer market that Apple was trying to reach.
The most successful ad campaign of late seems to have been Samsung’s recent attacks on Apple that prompted all sorts of internal angst with the halls of Apple HQ. That prompted Apple take on new advertising agencies. Apple certainly seems to think Samsung had an impact and that is certainly enough to call the campaign successful.
The similarity that Samsung campaign had with another successful campaign, Apple’s “I’m a PC,” is that they drew distinctions. Granted, some of the distinctions were questionable, but they drew them in bold lines that had decided impact on consumer thinking. Both are stark contrasts between the feel good campaigns we see so much of these days.
I’m not arguing that these mobile tech titans need to aim for the jugular each time they launch a new campaign. I would, however, argue that when they do (and do it well) they most likely see more impact for the dollars spent. I think most of consumers get that mobile tech can help them think differently about work and play. So we need to think different is more than just colors. We all think that way now which means we are all just like everybody else.