Microsoft stumbled out of the gate with catchy-but-irrelevant ads that show people dancing around with their flashy-colored keyboard covers on their Surface Pros, but the latest marketing campaign gets down to business and does a much better job of demonstrating what makes a Surface Pro 3 unique. It makes me wonder if Microsoft switched ad agencies.
The series of ads Microsoft created to pit the Surface Pro 3 against the MacBook are brilliant. Microsoft followed on the heels of ads comparing the Surface Pro against an iPad, demonstrating tricks Cortana can do on Windows Phone that Siri can't do on iOS, with this new campaign. The common theme compares Microsoft products against Apple, and Microsoft seems to have taken the proverbial gloves off.
The new ads still miss one important point, though: Price — or, more accurately, value.
The hard reality is that Microsoft's message isn't "The tablet that can replace your MacBook," it's "The tablet that can replace your laptop." So, why focus solely on the MacBook in the marketing campaign?
There are two reasons for this. First, Apple is a competitor — an iconic rival to all things Microsoft. I'm sure there are many employees at Microsoft taking more than a little pride in the new marketing campaign as revenge for the wildly popular "I'm a Mac and I'm a PC" campaign that Apple used a few years ago. They should. Recent campaigns from Microsoft have been both effective and clever — two things Microsoft marketing campaigns aren't exactly known for — in drawing the contrasts between the two companies' platforms and devices.
The underlying message, though, is that many of the points Microsoft makes to establish the Surface Pro 3 as uniquely superior to a MacBook are also examples of how a Surface Pro 3 is superior to many Windows-based laptops as well. However, overtly slamming OEM partners in a marketing campaign is taboo, so Apple makes a convenient foil for the commercials.
The other reason is price. Even though many of the same points Microsoft makes against the MacBook would be true against most laptops, many of the Windows-based laptops offer equivalent power and capabilities for significantly less money. Comparing against a MacBook Air makes sense, because the pricing is in the same ballpark as the Surface Pro 3, so it seems like an even comparison. It also has a psychological effect of raising the value of the Surface Pro 3 in the minds of customers because the MacBook is considered to be somewhat elitist.
To be fair, the perception that the Apple MacBook is elitist or expensive is just that — a perception. This is part of the aura Apple crafted for itself. However, the reality is that Windows-based PCs with roughly the same specifications also cost about the same. In fact, in some ways it might help Microsoft to point that out instead to assuage the idea that the Surface Pro 3 is too expensive. Realistically, it costs roughly the same as similarly equipped laptops from Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba, and others — but it's also a tablet and has other tricks up its sleeve.
Sure, this would create some conflict with OEM partners, but Microsoft really needs to develop one more ad for the Surface Pro 3 campaign. That ad should still show the Surface Pro 3 and an equivalent MacBook, but it should also include similarly equipped laptops from Dell, Lenovo, and others — along with the price of each. Most importantly, it should demonstrate the features and use cases that the other devices don't have, which is what makes the Surface Pro 3 a unique value proposition for the money.
There's no getting around the fact that the Surface Pro 3 isn't cheap. There are plenty of Windows laptops, and even a few Windows tablets that are significantly less expensive. Consumers in the market for those devices are not the target market for the Surface Pro 3. But for consumers who understand that you get what you pay for — and look beyond the price tag to find the best value — the Surface Pro 3 is well worth the cost.
The takeaway from the marketing message should be, if you're in the market to buy a laptop for $1,000 to $1,500, you owe it to yourself to experience the Surface Pro 3.
Does the Surface Pro 3 have a place in your tech arsenal? Why or why not? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
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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.