trash talking yourself

Marketing has always been about promoting something so that people will buy it.

So it’s always interesting to see campaigns where a company is encouraging customers not to use their own product. Probably the most (in)famous example is the tobacco industry funded anti-smoking campaign. I’ve also always liked how McCormick tells people to throw their old spices away. (albeit to buy fresh ones)

But lately, I’ve been impressed with Microsoft’s campaign to get people to stop using the Internet Explorer 6 web browser.

IE6 has lots of problems that I won’t get into here, but Microsoft has launched a campaign to get people to stop using the program. There’s a consumer-side campaign centered around the website, IE6countdown.com, as well as developer-side messaging like this…

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
(click image for larger size)

It’s an interesting thought experiment for your own business. If you had to launch a campaign today that encouraged people NOT to use your product, what would be the negative aspects you would center the campaign around?

After you figure that out, why not go ahead and fix those things now?

sadly, this is not a parody

One of the best indicators that you have a horrible idea is that people think its a joke.

Microsoft wants you to have Windows 7 launch party. This is not a joke.

PLEASE do not invite me to any such “party”. If I find out that you’re having such a party, I will call the cops to break it up. I would assume the police would find the idea of the party so disturbing that they would not hesitate to break out the tasers and clubs. You’ve been warned.

If you decide to ignore these warnings, do make sure your guest list includes an obvious forced diversity as Microsoft has done in their sample party video. If you can make it through the entire sample video without rolling your eyes or throwing up, then maybe you’re a good candidate for one of these parties. 

bada bing

Lots of people are hating Bing just because it’s from MSFT. I think you can find lots of other reasons to hate it including that Bing can’t seem to find things that are on the Internet — which is the first thing I look for in a search engine.

I really hate this line from their introductory page:

We sincerely hope that the next time you need to make an important decision, you’ll Bing and decide.

Oh snap, Google!  See how they’ve verbed themselves!? What a fabulous marketing tactic for any company:
–Don’t treet my email address.
–Make me a canon of this document.
–Just stick a Curad on it.

chandler bing search engineI also dislike their look. They apparently decided to be everything that Google is not. Google’s page is clean with lots of white space. Bing looks cluttered with a background that is remnicent of a “ahem” PC desktop background.

But the big basic problem is that they’ve just slapped a new look on a pre-existing bad product. Live Search wasn’t good. “Rebranding” by slapping a new name on something is never the answer.

And what about that name? Among many other meanings, Bing means “disease” in Chinese. Nice. It’s callled research, boys. You could have googled it and found out.

bill gates as kramer. no es bueno

I had high hopes when Crispin Porter + Bogusky took over the MSFT campaign. I expected something creative, edgy, and/or amusing. I was doubly excited when I heard Seinfeld was involved. Imagine my (and your) dissapointment with this garbage:

Questions:
Yeah. He’s 95% embedded into the brand. But didn’t Bill quit his job awhile back? Why is he here?
Shoes in the shower?
Why the Spanish subtitles?
Moist and chewy?
What’s the point?
Most importantly, the questions that ANY ad should answer and that this ad fails miserably at — What’s being sold here? and What’s the call to action?

Frankly, it’s as bad as when the local car dealer calls in his kids and does an ad just to entertain himself. I hope Jerry, Bill, and CP+B had a fun time shooting it.

we don’t like the masses

So someone sends me a link and when I get to the page I get this:
ie nonsupport

Really? You chose not to build first for the browser that 76% of people on the internet use? You chose to build for the browser that only 16% use?

Sure. It’s a hip and trendy tech-friendly 16%. And Firefox is a better browser. And Microsoft is evil. And etc. And etc. But as I’ve said before, you can’t be elitist if you’re wanting mass market success:

Yes. They’re using an inferior browser. They’re shopping at big box stores. They buy crap to eat. So build your website so it’s at least functional in a crappy browser on dial-up, stock your stuff at Wally-World, and put out a plate of Slim Jims and Twinkies.

If you want to succeed with the masses, you have to hold your nose and work with the masses.

You’re an idiot. Buy our stuff.

A new trend for the last few months in “me-too” marketing has companies telling their customers that they are stupid. From Burger King discontinuing the Whopper to Microsoft trying to convince people that Vista isn’t as bad as they think it is, there suddenly are an avalanche of “A-ha! I tricked the customer” campaigns bombarding the public.

Aside from the poor decision to imitate other campaigns (Got Milk, run amok), these ads are just bad on several levels. And the one that’s killing me most is Pizza Hut.

I’m about fed up with Pizza Hut anyway as they are the poster child for R&D train wrecks. There are only so many ways you can put cheese, sauce, and dough together. And guys, you ran out of variations a few years ago.

But this entire campaign, whether for the chocolate dunkers or for these pastas, says that “we have to trick people into eating our food”.

All of these trickery campaigns have a basic problem. They talk down to the people that they’re trying to get into the store. Hello potential customer! Did you know that we think you’re as bright as these morons who don’t know they’re eating “bacon flavored mac and cheese” in an Italian restauarant!?

Sure. 99% of a brand is perception. And if you have a large negative perception like with the MSFT Vista example, maybe you need to do something to rock the boat to challenge those perceptions.

On the other hand, if you have that large a negative perception, you’ve got bigger troubles with your brand than a cheesy ad campaign will fix.

CtrlAltDel

So today was Bill Gates’ last day. However, there was an incident. As he tried to leave the building for good, this popped up in the door:
bill gates
He couldn’t get it to go away and none of his keys worked. Eventually, he just had to turn the power off to the building and walk away in a huff. When they open back up Monday morning, Steve Ballmer will have to run a scandisk before he can come in.

There is a widely held belief that Bill is the devil. I don’t necessarily think HE’S the devil. But his company and his products certainly can be. I think it’s because the brand and the company didn’t develop along with Bill. He would have been a good candidate to develop an accidental brand, but the growth probably overshot him.

Seattle PI’s Todd Bishop found a Bill Gates e-mail from 2003 by sifting through the documents in the antitrust suits. When you read the email, you can see Bill’s frustration because everyone of us has had the problems with Windows that he’s describing in the email. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that Bill was concerned about usability and making the product work. The problem with MSFT was (is?) the company culture and the individuals below Bill.

The lesson for any organization is that fanatic attention to detail and quality assurance can’t fall on one person. It has to permeate the entire group. The one guy approach may work when the company is small. But if you grow enough to be called a monopoly, it can’t work.

Mac Vs PC

I’ve been meaning to post about the new Apple TV campaign. The one where a cool guy (the Mac) and a nerdy guy (the PC) stand in front of a white screen and converse about their differences.

I like the ads…and dislike them too. With such mental dichotomy, it’s been hard to craft the proper blog post. Luckily, I didn’t have to. Slate writer Seth Stevenson and his Ad Report Card sum up almost everything I have thought about the ads.

tags::

Design Basics

Via Scoble
I’ve always said that marketing by committee is never a good idea. This video parody shows what might have happened if Microsoft had designed the Ipod box.

This is true for creating all your marketing pieces as well.
The idea of “we paid for this space so we need to use all of it” sometimes kills your message.

tags::

The Original Idea

Quickly answer these 3 questions about current major corporate ad campaigns…
1) Why do Microsoft’s ads currently have “dinosaur people” in them?
2) Why does David Spade torture his pudgy cubicle buddy when he doesn’t say “No” in Capital One spots?
3) Also with Capital One…why are those Vikings running around…or unemployed?

There once was an “original idea” with all these ad campaigns. And those ideas are the answers:
1) You’re supposed to “evolve” to the newest version of MS Office. If you haven’t, you’re still a dinosaur.
2) Capital One doesn’t say “no” when you try to redeem rewards. David Spade and the rest of the cubicle farm work for the credit card competitors.
3) Credit works peacefully until you get the bill or the rate goes up causing credit card robber barons (a.k.a. Vikings) to rob and pillage your money.

The problem is that consumers have to already have seen the “original” ad for the current one to make sense. You’re joining a program already in progress. There are big problems with this.

First, unless you have an obscene ad budget, this will never work. It takes many viewings of any ad before it finally starts to sink in. In addition, you’re assuming that people care about your advertising and are paying attention to your every move. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. If it did, you’d only have the run the ad once.

Even worse, you may be sending the wrong message to consumers who may not “get it”. A prime example is the David Spade Capital One campaign. I bet that if Capital One did some research they would find that a significant percentage of consumers think that David Spade and his pudgy friend work FOR Capital One…and don’t realize the spots lampoon the competition.

The masses are just that…masses. It’s hard to get their attention, hard to get them to change course, and hard to get them to understand. You ALWAYS have to make it clear and not assume they know anything.

One of my primary marketing rules is this…No one cares about your marketing except you. Consumers care about what a product/service can do for them. They really aren’t paying attention to your extremely clever advertising.

tags::