Microsoft

The right marketing campaign could sell Windows 8 and Surface Pro

Many of the issues with Microsoft's Windows 8 and Surface Pro tablets are a matter of false perception. However, Microsoft could overcome that false perception with the right marketing campaign.

Surface Pro 2
 Image credit: Sarah Tew

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.

About

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...

26 comments
lorint
lorint

All the real reasons we hate Windows 8 still persist -- those crappy charms, two different control panels, very difficult to navigate Metro apps, a janky App Store clone being the only way to patch the thing...


This whole thing is like having a lover who is saddled with a horrible addiction and claims, "Oh but I can change!"  AND NEVER DOES.  Only minimal strides towards getting clean -- and then a complete relapse.  The hell continues.
jasmeet1235
jasmeet1235

Yesterday  I went to expo exhibition. I liked a product asked for a brochure. The sales rep opened up his iPad in a cover with keyboard started fiddling with it for 10 mins to find the brochure but couldn't locate it due to lack of file manager app and he didn't had a clue where that doc  was stored. I had a my dell venue pro tablet, took  a snapshot of the iPad screen emailed him a copy and also told him next time just forward that email.


The next booth I went to the sales rep was showing another brochure for a product on his iPad, with obvious clam shell keyboard cover. fiddling with iPad from screen to screen to answer questions he was having hard time.


I think Microsoft should launch a campaign of advertisement showing real power of the windows8.1 multiscreen, boot to desktop, opening multiple apps side by side, do a comparison of cold boot of windows tablet to an iPad in a real environment.


All the tablets should come with magnetic connectors as a standard that should be compatible with all the docks from the vendors and peripheral manufactures, then we will see windows 8 tablets sales take of at a bigger scale

PC987
PC987

I was critical of Windows 8, and still think it needs a fair amount of work to achieve its goal, but for people to still be railing against it, after 8.1 and now 8.1 update 1, it really does border on blind dogmatism. The OS is fast, stable, relatively resource modest, easy to use and fairly secure.

I've been using it on all my desktops, and on my Surface Pro 2, where it shines. I agree that the only thing the Surface Pro lacks I'd the right marketing approach. For the people who understand the value in what it offers, it's a truly fantastic device. Of all the notebooks and tablets I've purchased over the years, the Surface Pro us unarguably the best by a very wide margin. If my work didn't require workstation class (high end, multi-cpu) performance, the Surface Pro would be my sole computing device.

Mark A. Stewart
Mark A. Stewart

Windows 8 and 8.1 in general are both excellent OS's and I believe the true problem is peoples stubbornness to adapt to an awesome piece of software. That and like what Francis said, they really could use a ton of apps to get things up and running faster.

dnationsr
dnationsr

Well for stater's they could stop showing the stupid start screen on all their advertisements. Just show the desktop..that is what everyone wants to see anyway.

Francis Damico
Francis Damico

8.1 is a big improvement but we need more apps or Microsoft will lose.

Jason Shepard
Jason Shepard

The only "issue" with Windows 8 tablets is the fact that they are running Windows 8. Solve that problem and the rest will go away. Win8 = WinME.

korebreach
korebreach

I've been using Windows 8 since release on my personal desktop, personal laptop (neither of which have a touch screen), on my Surface Pro, on my work laptop, and even in my car (as a front-end to a Car-PC).  How can you not get it?  It's easy.  It doesn't require a touchscreen.  It doesn't have compatibility problems (runs anything Windows 7 can and more), and gives you access to both apps and full programs.  This isn't rocket surgery, people!  The "start screen" is just a full-sized start menu.  You can boot to the desktop if you want.  It's all about choices.  Anyone who can't understand how to switch between the "metro" interface (apps) and the desktop either spent less than 5 minutes with the OS, or is an Linux or Apple fanboi who just wants to trash anything Microsoft makes.  It's called innovation, and somebody needs to be a leader.  What has Apple done in the past 10 years?  Make the iPod (a pretty take on the existing MP3 player).  Give it a touchscreen (iPod touch).  Add a phone (iPhone).  Make it bigger and take out the phone (iPad).  Make it smaller (iPad Mini).  Where's the innovation?  Now, compare to Microsoft.  Make a full Windows PC that can run full desktop applications, and cram it into a tablet size (Surface).  Make the OS work for tablets, phones, and desktop PCs. (Windows 8).


The sad fact is that there are so many tech-snobs that will automatically trash anything made by Microsoft.  For many of them, if you slapped an "i" in front of it, it would be "magical" and "revolutionary".  Imagine if Apple made an iPad that could run OSX programs!  Amazing!  Bravo for the innovative Apple!

rlcohen
rlcohen

I have to disagree with the author on this one.  This is more than an issue of false perceptions, positive spins or brand messaging.  Over the decades in IT I’ve adapted to DOS, Windows (from 3.x onwards), OS/2, NetWare and various flavours of Linux, but I still just don’t “get” Windows 8.x.


Saying that “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...” doesn’t make it so.  I’ve sat down in front of Windows 8.x machines on several occasions (not my own, fortunately), and still don’t really have a clue as to how to install an application, change a setting, find a file or run a program, still less toggle between the 2 “views” of Windows.


I’ve been around a while, but I’m not too old to learn.  It just strikes me that Microsoft went out of its way to disempower anyone familiar with the “old” Windows paradigm, and in effect make our hard-won skills obsolete.


dpbakeril
dpbakeril

Trolls be trolls, when it comes to Microsoft centric articles.  Even if Microsoft got it right the first time they'd still find something to complain about or deride.  Contempt for something new is breed by stagnate familiarity and an unwillingness to experiment and learn the new.  From Windows X to Windows 8.1, and all points in between, I've watched as users didn't want to make the next leap because their IT didn't want to make the leap by providing the necessary tools and education for a safe leap, mainly because they were just as mired in stagnate familiarity and unwilling to buck the comfortably numb.

Steven Berliner
Steven Berliner

It isn't the tablet I feel most people have issues with. It's the OS itself. Whereas Windows 7 made no assumption as to what kind of user you are, Windows 8 outright assumes you are a tablet user that shouldn't use intensive processes and that you shouldn't multitask, and is built entirely around that mindset to the extent where all of the default applications are forced-fullscreen, as is the search and options menu. Multitasking is much more frustrating an experience in Windows 8, as is using it with a laptop touchpad, where things will randomly pop up when you try to swipe since apparently your touch pad = a tablet screen. The issue isn't the Surface, it's this absolutely stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid notion that a tablet OS on a small screen should look and act exactly the same as my desktop OS with two 24" monitors. There is no logic behind that. It is just absolutely stupid. I still use Windows 7 because 8 tried to assume I wasn't a real power user, and at every turn and corner got in my way and tried to make me less productive than I wanted to be. 7 makes no assumptions. There aren't any gimmicks, there aren't any tricks, it just does what it's supposed to do, the end. The only reason Windows 8 needs this kind of crazy marketing is because it sucks. If it were good, it wouldn't need this kind of marketing. People would flock to it. Even if it were a bit tricky to learn, as long as it was actually innovative, cool and helped productivity, people would use it, excellent marketing or not. However, all of this over-flashy glittery marketing is failing because at the end of the day, Windows 8, amidst all its glitter and gimmicks and designs and app store, isn't a good operating system. Different or better marketing will not change that.

Joshua Morden
Joshua Morden

Marketing campaign and failure to demonstrate to the users the difference between capacitive styluses and active digital pens. I work for an electronics retailer, and you'd be surprised how many customers I meet who are not aware of the advantages of active digitizers for note-taking or drawing.

lkarnis
lkarnis

How does a new marketing campaign fix usability, interoperability and compatibility issues of W8? How does it bridge the gap between Metro & regular windows apps? How does it solve the learning curve of W8? How does it give me peace of mind that I can install a non-Windows OS on a device with a locked down UEFI? How does it help show more value over the W7 device I already own?


Telling a fresh new story is fine... as long as people can relate to that story. I still can't relate to the 'story' of Windows 8.

Tiger-Pa
Tiger-Pa

I have a 128GB Surface Pro with Media Center. Although there are some types of apps not available that you're use to on your iPad, they're not always needed because you have a full OS and browser.

I have the latest updates installed: Windows 8.1 with Update 1. I have never had a crash, bsod or had any infections. I run Microsoft Outlook as well as the rest of Office 365 Pro Home, Quicken Deluxe, and many other reputable third party apps, all with no problems.

I'm able to sit in any room and perform any task that is done on a desktop or a tablet. I'm even able to sit on the patio and watch cable TV with Media Center accessing my Ceton InfinITV 6 Ethernet Tuner.

If you're too busy complaining instead of using a Surface Pro or Pro 2, freedom is passing you by.

Michael Scott
Michael Scott

I think "marketing campaign" is the problem. How much money was spent trying to aww the public with those dance numbers? Build the brand first with simple, this is what you can do and why you need it. This includes fix 8 or getting 9 out there. I mean 8.1 isn't much better than 8. Peoole wanted a run as xp for the UI. And finally were is the apps? Windows surface sucess also ties to windows everywhere. The windows phone lacks so many apps. I think i would be giving away stuff to get tem built...coming from iphone and ipad there currently is no comparison and to be honest Office365 runs better on their platform. So don't give up, roll up you sleeves and get to work.

Michael Scott
Michael Scott

I think "marketing campaign" is the problem. How much money was spent trying to aww the public with those dance numbers? Build the brand first with simple, this is what you can do and why you need it. This includes fix 8 or getting 9 out there. I mean 8.1 isn't much better than 8. Peoole wanted a run as xp for the UI. And finally were is the apps? Windows surface sucess also ties to windows everywhere. The windows phone lacks so many apps. I think i would be giving away stuff to get tem built...coming from iphone and ipad there currently is no comparison and to be honest Office365 runs better on their platform. So don't give up, roll up you sleeves and get to work.

Rob Bogan
Rob Bogan

Biggest problem is their App Store is half assed. That isn't going to cut it on a device like that.

Matt Davis
Matt Davis

At GMIC in San Fran I managed to crash 3 Surface II/Pro's (whatever they are) in a row. How'd I accomplish this? launched IE O.o

Justin Rice
Justin Rice

Yeah, windows has created the most counterproductive device on the market. Time control is real.

Peluchin
Peluchin

@korebreach  I do agree the most of your speech. Anyway, you have to sell to survive. and MS is widely loosing now.  I'd strongly recommend to MS to find a good Publisher. Soon.

2112Slayer
2112Slayer

@rlcohen  LOL  You DO NOT work in IT.  If you do, your company is foolish for employing you.  If you cannot figure out how to install software on Windows 8, or change settings for that matter (hint:  it's exactly like Windows 7), then you have ZERO business in IT.


If you feel you are obsolete, you only have one person to blame.

2112Slayer
2112Slayer

@lkarnis  "How does a new marketing campaign fix usability, interoperability and compatibility issues of W8"


That's the point, there are none.


"How does it bridge the gap between Metro & regular windows apps?"


What gap?  There are Metro apps, and there are traditional apps.  When you want to run one or the other, you just have to choose.


"How does it solve the learning curve of W8?"


lol...well marketing can't help stupid,  So you are correct here...


"How does it give me peace of mind that I can install a non-Windows OS on a device with a locked down UEFI? "


How about turning off UEFI if you are trying to circumvent it.  


Unbelievable.



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