First, if you haven’t seen it yet, watch Microsoft’s response to Apple’s infamous “I’m a Mac” campaign.
Here’s the question: what do you want to bet that Apple has been just waiting – even itching – for Microsoft to release that kind of response to their “I’m a Mac” campaign?
Why do I ask that? Because I’d bet anything that Mac’s marketing was smart enough to engage in what Mike Smock has termed The Three Move Set. You see, when you try to take market share from a competitor, it’s usually a fair bet that they’ll react with some kind of countermeasure. And that means smart marketers think at least far enough in advance to consider their response to the competition’s countermeasures. Ideally, one wants to make sure this response is decisive, or at least hurts the competition as much as the initial challenge. Here’s how Mike breaks it down:
Move 1: Challenger attacks Leader
Move 2: Leader reacts to Challenger.
Move 3: Challenger reacts to Leader.
And here’s how to view the current Mac/PC ad campaigns in light of that:
- Move 1: Mac challenges PC by personifying Macs as hip, cool, and reliably workable and PCs as nerdy, problematic (especially with the release of Vista), and behind the curve in user experience.
- Move 2: Microsoft responds by creating an ad that actively evokes Apple’s framing of the issue and that essentially says, hey, PCs are cool, too.
Do you see? Most strategists could have – and should have – seen this one coming. Apple goads you into advertising to respond to their ads and then they slam you for being more concerned with creating ad campaigns than fixing your software, as in the case with the ad I posted yesterday or Apple’s PC Bake Sale ad:
So what should have (or could have) Microsoft done?
Well, leaving aside the obvious bit about getting Vista right before releasing it to the public, they probably should have:
- Responded to Mac in a matter of weeks, or at least months, rather than years. This one is sort of a no-brainer.
- Come up with a response that re-framed the issue rather than responding to Mac’s frame. Saying, “I’m not a dweeb” is a bit like saying “I’m not a crook” – it just forces people to think of you within the frame of dweeb/not dweeb (or Crook/Not Crook). This is actually a well known phenomenon that is actively used by modern politicians. Just as asking people not to think of white bears is actually counterproductive, so too is Microsoft’s denial of Mac’s characterization of PCs.
- Possibly take a page out of Trout and Ries’ playbook and attack the weakness inherent in Mac’s strength. In this case, it’s Apple’s closed system and (lower but still there) price premium. William Thomas alluded to the limitations of a closed system in a comment to my previous post when he compared Linux to catching and gutting your own fish and Apple to ordering fish at the restaurant. And I’m guessing here, but it’s also what Microsoft might be getting at with the “Life without walls” slogan. Of course, Microsoft will have to be as creative and sharp witted in pressing this point as Mac has been with their campaigns, and, well, their ad above hardly qualifies. The slogan is nothing but an afterthought.
So what do you think Microsoft should do?