If you've watched TV in the past few months, there's a pretty good chance you've seen the "And Not Or" commercials from Ford. Microsoft should hire that ad agency, because that's precisely the sort of marketing campaign Microsoft could use to put a positive spin on some of the perceived issues with Windows 8 and its Surface tablets.
The Ford ads depict a variety of scenarios where the actors are glad they get "and" rather than a choice of "or." For example, sweet or sour chicken, rock or roll music, or black or white photography. It's part of Ford's marketing effort to sell their cars as having both worthy performance and great gas mileage, as opposed to just one or the other.
That is exactly the brand messaging Microsoft needs for Windows 8 and the Surface tablets — specifically the Surface Pro tablets. Both suffer from negative perceptions regarding one half of what they do. In other words, consumers view Windows 8 and Surface tablets as an "or" equation.
When it comes to Windows 8, users frequently comment that they don't own a touchscreen monitor, or that if they wanted a tablet, they'd buy a tablet — as if Windows 8 is somehow limited to touchscreen devices like tablets. It's true that Microsoft developed Windows 8 with touchscreen displays in mind, and it's true that the Modern / Metro interface on the default Windows 8 Start Screen has a mobile-esque feel to it. However, Windows 8 still works just fine with a traditional monitor, mouse, and keyboard (there's no touchscreen required), and it runs traditional Windows software on standard desktop or laptop hardware just fine (you don't need to have a tablet).
Had Microsoft sold that right from the beginning, it would have framed it similar to how Ford is portraying the balance between performance and mileage. With Windows 8, you don't have to choose between a touchscreen or a mouse and keyboard or between a tablet or a traditional desktop or laptop PC. You get both in one.
The same is true for the Surface Pro (now Surface Pro 2). At face value, it's a tablet. Consumers look at the Surface Pro 2 — a device that starts at $900 — and compare it by default to other tablets, like the Apple iPad that costs about half as much. However, the reality is that under the hood, the Surface Pro 2 is a PC. It uses the same Intel architecture and processors as traditional laptops or desktop Windows PCs, plus it runs the full Windows operating system. You can get a tablet OR a PC — or you can a Surface Pro 2, which is a tablet AND a PC in one device.
You can choose a strictly PC OS like Windows 7 or a mobile OS like iOS that's designed for a touchscreen device. It would be better, though, to choose Windows 8, which gives you all of the same features and capabilities of a desktop OS, while also leaving you the option of using it with a touchscreen display or tablet. You can have a traditional desktop PC, or you can get a mobile device like a tablet. Better yet, you can get a Surface Pro 2 that has all of the same functionality as the traditional PC, packed into a tablet form factor, so you get both for the price of one.
Unfortunately, brand messaging is not a strong suit for Microsoft, and it's much harder to overcome negative perceptions — no matter how incorrect they may be — once they're established. Microsoft failed to make those distinctions and give businesses and consumers a reason to feel good about choosing Windows 8 or the Surface Pro. They've let the false perception of "or" drive the narrative for Windows 8 and Surface Pro rather than celebrating the idea of "and."
Do you think, at this point, an ad campaign can help Microsoft sell Windows 8 and Surface Pro? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.