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Microsoft Cool Hunters Still Shooting Blanks

I’m no fan of Microsoft’s laptop hunter campaign.  I’ve said my piece on the Lauren and Giampaolo spots, both desperate attempts to bolster sales in a down economy and paint PCs with the “cool” brush CPB so effortlessly wields. On the plus side, the third installment stops playing HP favorites, and the mother-son duo moves us away from the SAG-gy hipsters we’ve stomached to date. Still, there’s no brand advancement, and when there’s a chance to land a hard jab on Apple, Microsoft manages only a glancing blow.

First, the obligatory criteria from our shoppers: “Speed, a big hard drive, and a good gaming computer.”  Mom then puts “speed” in the context of the average American family: “sometimes we have to look up stuff and get out the door.”  I can just picture parents watching at home, collectively nodding: WE look stuff up. WE go out the door.

Microsoft is clearly on the cutting edge of lifestyle segmentation.

Thankfully, the attacks aren’t as snarky. Mom acknowledges Apple’s popularity and points again to price. There’s a family cheer when they find a PC with Blu-Ray, but Microsoft fails to connect the dots by pointing out a true limitation of Macs for the family: many game developers do not release Mac-friendly titles, and Macs can’t currently play Blu-Ray movies or games. This is an important miss (and the best evidence to date that these ads aren’t completely scripted). Mac owns lifestyle computing. For families with kids, movies and gaming are a huge part of that lifestyle. Why doesn’t Microsoft exploit this little detail when Lisa and Jackson identify gaming as a key factor in their decision?

A few Monday morning creative directors at tech blog ars technica suggest one way Microsoft could expose this weakness while moving the attention from HP and Vaio back to their own brand.  Zeebee storyboards:

“Mother and son go out and buy a new Mac. It is great, they love it, it does everything that they want, EXCEPT the son cannot play his latest games on it. Well, the very helpful salesperson informs them that [by] purchasing this version of Microsoft Vista and installing it, their Mac can in fact run all the son’s games.”

Now that would be interesting. HP and Dell would have Ballmer’s head, but at least the focus would be back on Microsoft.

BusinessWeek’s Peter Burrows reports that the laptop hunter campaign is part of “a three-year strategy to reestablish the Windows brand with consumers.” We’re three ads in, and the only brands benefitting are HP, Sony and Blu-Ray.

These “real people” spots are revealing a sad truth: Microsoft greatest threat isn’t Apple. Their brand is so ill-defined in the hearts and minds of the consumer, paid actors playing consumer don’t even know how to promote it.


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