Mar 262012

If you’ve read my opinions about tech company advertising, you’d know that I think Microsoft has some of the worst in the business. Historically, their ads fall cleanly into one of 2 camps: “disingenuous comparisons” and “adolescent humor”. Their latest attempt to breathe life into their Windows Phone offering, “Smoked by Windows Phone” was doomed to failure the second someone in Marketing decided to port it from “CES novelty” to “major marketing push”.

The gimmick, as it was first covered at CES, is that you bring your smartphone and match it up against a Windows Phone in a real-world speed test using one of Microsoft’s pre-designed benchmarks such as “take a picture and upload it to Facebook”. If you won at CES, you got a crisp Benjamin. In the most current promotion being run at both Windows Stores, if you win, you walk away with a special Hunger Games edition HP ultrabook.

The problem with this set-up should be obvious. Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second and assume that the comparisons are fair and decent representations of useful things you would do with your smartphone. With a $1,000 piece of kit on the line, don’t you think people are going to do everything they can to rig the game in their favor? And how does Microsoft think it’s going to look when someone beats them – fairly or unfairly – and the dude in the Windows Store refuses to pay out? What excuse do you think the general public is going to find acceptable? The answer: none of them. Microsoft is going to looks like dicks that not only rigged a competition in their favor, but dicks that welch on bets when they can’t win a competition rigged in their favor. And that’s exactly what the breeze coming off the Internet about this debacle smells like.

Exhibit A: dude beats Windows Phone using Android phone at Windows Store. Windows Store employee redefines the rules of the competition on the fly. Dude tweets what bullshit this is. Windows Marketing guy tweets back and offers the cheated Android user a rematch.

Exhibit B: guy on Reddit finds it funny that Windows Phone outperforms his phone when uploading a photo. Guy Speedtests Windows Phone and finds upload speeds significantly faster than his, leading to claim that Microsoft throttles the WiFi in their store to give them an unfair advantage when uploading a photo to Facebook.

This does not have the makings of a viral marketing campaign; it has the makings of Microsoft hanging itself out there like a piñata at a birthday party.

Update: It looks like the gentleman from Exhibit A is a good example of what howling on Twitter about your misfortunes can do: after challenging Sahas Katta to “a rematch”, Microsoft manned-up and made good on granting him his reward: a laptop and a Windows Phone. Score one for Redmond. I still think the campaign is a horrible idea, but at least they’re honoring the terms of their challenge (after being called out on the Internet, that is).

 Posted by at 11:57 am

  3 Responses to “Microsoft “Smoked by Windows Phone” Marketing: Still Doing It Wrong”

  1. I went to the “Smoked by Windows Phone Challenge” in Houston Galleria, I was told to find directions to the closest 4* restaurant. Sales rep didn’t find directions he just found locations of closest restaurant, at the same time I found directions. When I showed it sales rep, he told me that I was trying to cheat and offered me redo, when I found closest restaurants faster then him he again told me again that I was cheating. I don’t understand how Microsoft wants to get back on the Market when they are clearly not follow rules. And how they want to compete with somebody who’s customer service trained way better then them.

  2. Your story brings up a good point that I didn’t mention. Aside from being seen as a rigged competition, the challenge is put in the hands of a number of individuals, any of which could screw up its implementation even worse than the Marketing person intended. This promotion is a FAIL on every possible level.

    You should think about Tweeting your frustration. Worked out pretty well for one guy.

  3. I think that this competition in a nonsense in every sense (pun intended). If you’re going to compare phones by any reasonable criteria, I believe that finishing a given task in under 10 seconds would be enough. However they chose to split hairs and count milliseconds there. And that really is nonsense AND brings bad publicity. If I were Microsoft, I’d have rerouted some portion of the millions of $$$ Microsoft puts into marketing into the prize fund, and have given away tens if not hundreds of laptops and Windows Phones. That would maybe be received as bribing the customers, but it sure would have generated a lot of publicity, and that would have been good publicity.

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