Monthly Archives: November 2013

New Surface ads herald a Microsoft strategy shift: function over style

Do you remember when Microsoft tried to make the Surface cool? First there were the ads with dancing 20-somethings, who were dressed like they worked at the hippest ad agency in Manhattan and had haircuts to match. Then there were the adorable dancing schoolgirls.

But that was sooo Q3 2013. The new ads, just launched last week, have taken a 180-degree turn. One features a chubby teacher who wears a button-down sweater-vest and a beard worthy of the Red Sox. He says, “I like chalk and erasers.” (Really, chalk and erasers? Has anyone ever said that in real life?) The other features a paramedic who is dressed as … a paramedic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great look, but it emphasizes function over style.

And that’s precisely the point. Microsoft can’t compete with Apple for the cool factor. Instead, the company is trying to show that the Surface can be used for both work and play. “I needed a new laptop for my premed classes, something that runs office and has a keyboard,” the paramedic says. “But I wanted a tablet for me, for stuff like Twitter and Xbox. … so I can manage my crazy life, and also have a life.”

Microsoft’s new strategy just might work. The iPad fills certain consumer needs – or, as we say at Innosight, consumers “hire” the iPad to fill particular “jobs.” Some of those jobs are emotional rather than functional: Make me feel like I’m on the cutting edge. Demonstrate that I’m one of the cool kids. But Microsoft finally realized that no one was going to buy the Surface to look or feel cool. Consumers might, however, buy it to get work done.

Check out the ads below, and tell me what you think.

Dancing 20-somethings

Dancing schoolgirls




5-Second Innovation Lesson from Braden Kowitz

A recent BusinessWeek article profiled how Google Ventures helps the startups in its portfolio go through a rapid design and iteration process. Here’s a great quote from Braden Kowitz, a design partner at the firm:

With Gmail, we knew the problem was that people needed to organize mail better. At startups, you don’t always know what the problem is. So the value isn’t in getting it exactly right, but in getting feedback along the way.

The same could be said for large corporations.

How Electrolux revamped its consumer-focused innovation

BusinessWeek is one of the best publications covering innovation today. I’m finally making it through the Nov. 4 issue and found this great story about how Electrolux revamped its innovation efforts by focusing on the consumer and highlighting design. Here are a few of the things the company did:

  1. Incorporated ethnography. Market researchers spent hours in consumers’ homes watching how they vacuumed in order to develop the new bagless model.
  2. Built an “innovation triangle.” The company brought together the design, R&D, and marketing departments to make joint decisions on new products.
  3. Elevated design: The company created a position of chief design officer, and is now “one of just a handful of companies – Apple is another – where the chief designer reports directly to the CEO.

Read more at BusinessWeek.