Thursday, March 09, 2006

Microsoft fails to understand buzz

At first, it appeared that Microsoft was "going to school" on Apple. They leaked the existence of a product code-named, "Origami" in the attempt to create an Apple-level amount of buzz about the product.

However, Microsoft has created a disaster for themselves. From our perspective, there is a difference between simple buzz and advocacy - a nuance that appears to elude Microsoft. Advocacy is active positive communication (buzz) about something. Antagonism is active negative communications about something (also called buzz). Simply receiving buzz isn't enough for a company, it needs to be positive to be useful.

For example, there has been recent "buzz" in the political world about the Dubai Port World deal. None of the "buzz" was favorable. Rather, it was all negative. That is why the deal is now dead. Therefore, it is dangerous to instantly be happy when your product or company has buzz.

This is where Microsoft messed up. If you have read much of this blog or read our book, The Paradox of Excellence, you will know that we think expectation management is critical. We create positive buzz or advocacy when we positively surprise our customers - when the actual is better than the expected. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn't adhere to this philosophy - to its detriment.

Microsoft succeeded in creating lots of unrealistic expectations about what Origami was going to be. For weeks, there has been broad speculation about the potential of a truly exciting and exceptional new product. Yet, the actual product failed to capture our imaginations. In fact, it was such a disappointment, there is now a serious backlash. You know you're in trouble when ABC news calls your product the "Sum of Two Failures" and CNN says it looks "paper thin" (the non-flattering meaning). This is buzz, but sounds more like the buzz that comes from machine gun strafing than it does from the heart palpitations of gadget geeks worldwide.

Apple must be breathing a sigh of relieve. Not only is Origami a bust, it is clear that Microsoft still doesn't understand what it means to create brand advocacy.

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