It's a great time to be a Microsoft family

Two days before Christmas last year I posted "Talking about Microsoft Store", which contrasted the differences between people shopping there and the Apple shop a few doors down in Fashion Valley Mall, San Diego. Apple Store was busier, and the crowd younger, with lots of individuals and couples. I observed about the other shop: "Microsoft Store is where families meet".

So it is with great intrigue and curiosity that I watch Microsoft's new "It's a great time to be a family" marketing campaign unfold. I'm loving it. The first commercials clearly show the benefits of using Microsoft stuff and put them in context of what matters most to the majority: Family. Core family values also are central to the Microsoft lifestyle. And when I express "core family values" the meaning simply is "one another" -- not some moral conservative or liberal moral agenda.

The Apple lifestyle is quite different. Apple culture is much more about individualism, friendship and creativity. That can so clearly be seen by who shops the stores and what they're there for and by comparing Apple marketing campaigns to Microsoft's. Even the products reveal something. For example, Apple chose to integrate Twitter, rather than Facebook, into iOS 5. Twitter is a much more individualistic service -- people broadcast, others follow them and they all react within 140-character exchanges. Contrast that to Facebook, which is about friends and relationships. Microsoft has long touted Facebook integration/support with its products, with Windows Phone being one obvious example.

Pulling Heart Strings

Microsoft's sales pitch isn't complex: "Whatever your family’s into, there’s a Microsoft® product that's right for them. It all starts with a Windows 7 PC. See how well our family fits in with yours". But the focus is broader: Windows Phone, Xbox 360 and Windows 7 as anchors, which, unsurprisingly fit into the company's focus on three screens: PC, phone and television.

Microsoft's pitch is aspirational, and I'll watch to see how well it works. Good marketing effectively:

  • Presents a product or brand in a way that makes you remember them
  • Demonstrates benefits that will make your life better, or make you believe it will be
  • Makes you feel good, creating an emotional hook attached to the product or brand

What has more loaded emotions -- and hopefully good ones -- than family? My daughter is a senior in high school, and the first two commercials make me feel jealous for an earlier time in our family life. She sadly is our only child and will be gone to college soon.

In Microsoft TV commercial "Epic Share", a dad moves to Dance Central 2 for Xbox 360, while the daughter videos him using Windows Phone. She sends it to a PC, from which her brother uses Windows Live Movie Maker to edit and post online (for family to see). It's all family fun, while showing five Microsoft products: Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Phone, Windows 7, Xbox 360 and Kinect. The commercial also shows off the 11.6-inch Samsung Series 9 notebook, which competes with Apple's MacBook Air.

TV commercial "Dog.PPT" captures this family value lifestyle well, too. A youngster uses PowerPoint to make the case for getting a family dog. Who can't relate to a boy and a dog, or to some parents' reaction to his wanting one? The advert shows PowerPoint in a different context -- kid and parents, rather than the workplace.

The Value of Value

One of Microsoft's longstanding core values is, well, value -- making computing affordable for everyone. That's something I'd like to see more from future Microsoft family marketing. It's something I see inside Microsoft today -- well, yesterday.

I often go inside my local Microsoft Store to check out the deals. Yesterday I spotted a Sony VAIO SA laptop, which offers tremendous value compared to the Mac laptops for sale four stores away. Basic config: 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 2410M processor, 13.3-inch display with 1600 x 900 resolution, 4GB DDR 3 RAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6300M graphics, 500GB 5400-RPM hard drive and Windows 7 Professional. The kicker: Free Sony sheet battery that attaches to the laptop's bottom. Sony claims up to 7.5 hours battery life standard or up to 15 hours with the extra one. Price: $999, and buyers spending $500 or more are eligible for free Windows Phone, too.

To get as good or better screen resolution, Mac laptop buyers must spend $1,949; to get 1GB of graphics memory, $2,199; and they can't get 15-hour battery for any price from Apple.

Value is often a priority for many families. Kids cost money. Microsoft has played up value before with the "I'm a PC" marketing campaign. It should resonate as well or better as part of family marketing.

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