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  #1  
Old 06-03-2008, 04:00 AM
Adam Krebs
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Default How to "Save" the Zune or: Why Marketers are Idiots

<div class='os_post_top_link'><a href='http://www.last100.com/2008/05/28/how-to-save-the-zune/' target='_blank'>http://www.last100.com/2008/05/28/h...-save-the-zune/</a><br /><br /></div>Last100.com recently featured an article on &quot;how to save the Zune&quot; written by the Creative Director of a design firm &quot;that specializes in youth market and interactive media.&quot; At first glance, it would appear that the author, Michael Pinto, would have the requisite experience and ideas needed to boost Zune sales, or at least create an interesting read. But as the article progressed, it was clear that Pinto has no concept of the Zune (he's never owned one) or what its marketing team has tried to accomplish (most of his ideas about &quot;the youth&quot; and MP3 players come from an anecdotal trip to <em>K-Mart</em>.)<br /><br />I don't think it's worth the effort to rebut each of his half-baked ideas (though some of them aren't bad) since anyone with half an brain and a cursory knowledge of the Zune will know this guy is full of it. Instead, I'd like to focus more on the big picture, though I may slip up and name-call a little bit. <br /><br />Pinto suggests Microsoft become the Pepsi to Apple's Coke, and I think the comparison is reasonable. Much in the same way Pepsi targeted a &quot;<a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepsi#Niche_marketing">niche</a>&quot; audience and expanded their demographic by ostensibly targeting the cool people (&quot;the choice of a <a target="_blank" href="http://www.garybeene.com/pepsi/pep-hist.htm">new generation</a>!&quot, Microsoft is aiming for a hipper, younger audience that most people aspire to to become part of. By promoting artists (both musical and visual) that may be lesser-known but popular in their respective areas the consumer will latch on, because after all, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.noonewantstolookdumb.com/">no one wants to look dumb</a>. <MORE /> Apple has had success with its iPod largely because the all-white devices don't carry many assumptions about their users. They don't come pre-loaded with the latest indie rock, they don't offer laser-engraved art on the back (beyond a few lines of text), and don't do the whole &quot;low cost&quot; thing. This creates a brand that is largely impressionable and luxurious, while also young and hip. The difficulty with staying hip, of course, is that it's hard to do and and even harder to do without over-doing. Just look at the backlash Apple's been getting recently about its &quot;I'm a Mac and I'm a PC&quot; commercials and its brand in general.<br /><br />Microsoft needs to take a cue from the Pepsi playbook and hound Apple doggedly. When Coca Cola introduced &quot;<a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Coke">New Coke</a>&quot;, Pepsi was right there with a massive P.R. campaign about how much it sucked. Maybe Microsoft should've been ready when Apple launched the ugly &quot;<a target="_blank" href="http://digg.com/apple/Apple_Announces_new_iPod_Nano_Fatty">fatty</a>&quot; 3rd Generation iPod Nanos. With both the Gen3 Nano and New Coke, news of the product launch leaked early, giving the competition time for a counter attack. The difference between Microsoft and Pepsi's strategies is that Pepsi actually responded, and New Coke ultimately flopped. Pinto also argues that Microsoft should undercut Apple on its pricing, selling a $25 version of a Shuffle-like player that is more fashion accessory than technical wonder. This is an interesting point. Even though I disagree with the $25 price-point (too close to the cost of a CD, makes the brand look cheap), I do think Microsoft needs to avoid competing directly with Apple. If they're truly serious about differentiating themselves, they should offer storage amounts that Apple doesn't, at price points Apple isn't.<br /><br />The rest of the article just gets worse. Pinto suggests the players come pre-loaded with music (<a target="_blank" href="http://generationzune.net/index.php/2007/11/12/zune-preloaded-content/">they do</a>), come in limited editions (<a target="_blank" href="http://www.zunerama.com/zune-versions.php">they do</a>), and be associated with musicians (<a target="_blank" href="http://zuneinsider.com/archive/2008/04/23/zune-and-the-joy-division-documentary.aspx">they</a> <a target="_blank" href="http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2007/oct07/10-23ZuneWisinYandelPR.mspx">do</a>--just not awful mainstream icons like Gwen Stefani and Hello Kitty [no offense to their respective fans]). Microsoft has proven that it wants to be less &quot;<a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miguzi">Miguzi</a>&quot; and more &quot;<a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toonami">Toonami</a>&quot;; a more hardcore and indie-based archetype than the mainstream-friendly Kids W.B. shows. Hello Kitty is cute, popular, and everything the Zune branding isn't, and I'm a bit surprised &quot;the publisher of Anime.com and Fanboy.com&quot; didn't pick a lesser-known and better suited anime character to argue his case. Plus, Hello Kitty's already got <a target="_blank" href="http://www.engadget.com/2005/01/26/the-hello-kitty-mp3-player/">her own MP3 player</a>. Pinto ponders a case in which Zune fans &quot;collect&quot; limited edition players. Perhaps he's spent too much time around Pok&eacute;mon cards, but beyond the super-rich or the super-interested, I don't see many people &quot;collecting&quot; MP3 players. As a device that fits somewhere between fashion accessory and functional utility, they're priced too high for people to collect. Most people want reduced clutter in their lives (hence the move to portable music players from CDs and tapes), and beyond special circumstances only need one or a few players.<br /><br />So I'm going to end this [overlong and needlessly complicated] rant by saying that the Zune, while far from perfect, doesn't need to deviate from its strategy that much. The only thing they really <em>have</em> to do is get the word out more--and that means more <a target="_blank" href="http://paulstorms.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!46795502BF9F616C!2539.entry">ads that actually feature the device</a>. <br /><br /><em>Adam Krebs digs the Zune.</em>
 
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  #2  
Old 06-03-2008, 05:15 PM
Jason Dunn
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It's funny, I think because Microsoft is so gun-shy about being perceived as being "the bully", they let Apple get away with their attack ads yet do nothing in response (in the case of Vista). I can imagine some VERY funny Zune ads comparing the tall and slender Zune to the "fatty" Nano - but it seems like Microsoft doesn't want to go there...
 
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  #3  
Old 06-03-2008, 06:02 PM
crimsonsky
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I'm not sure what the Zune's problem is but Microsoft is definitely doing something wrong. First, I have to say I don't own a Zune - but that's more because I already had an iPod when the Zune came out. If the Zune had existed when I bought my iPod I may have considered it (from what I've seen of it and playing with it in stores, I don't see any fundamental problems with the device) IF IT WORKED WITH MACS. I really don't understand why Microsoft won't make it so the Zune can work with iTunes or even it's own Zune Marketplace on the Mac. I'm not particularly married to the iPod by choice - but I can't even consider a Zune as long as I can't use it with my Macs.

From what I've seen in retail stores, Zunes are not hidden or even placed less prominently than iPods. In most retail stores they seem to have equal billing at least in terms of display place and position. And yet, I have never seen anyone actually buy a Zune and I've never seen a Zune "in the wild". (Of course as an over-50 person, maybe I don't hang around the right demographic!)

Personally, I'd really like to see the Zune succeed because Apple needs the competition. Feature-wise, I actually think the Zune has the iPod beat (this is not including the iPod Touch which is a different type of beast) and I've even heard that the audio quality of the Zune is slightly better than that of the iPod.

So even though I'm an iPod/Mac user, I'm actually cheering for the Zune and hope that Microsoft can gain traction in the Market.
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  #4  
Old 06-03-2008, 07:02 PM
Jason Dunn
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crimsonsky View Post
I'm not sure what the Zune's problem is but Microsoft is definitely doing something wrong. First, I have to say I don't own a Zune - but that's more because I already had an iPod when the Zune came out.
Well, that's the #1 problem right there: with the iPod, Apple had the first-mover advantage in terms of having a hardware + software solution. No, they weren't the first MP3 player on the market, but they were the first ones to make an MP3 player easy to use, and to include desktop software. In a lot of ways, it doesn't matter how good Microsoft makes the Zune, Apple is almost impossible to catch up with. It will take Apple making some serious missteps for the Zune to make major in-roads with it, or a lot of time and marketing dollars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by crimsonsky View Post
I really don't understand why Microsoft won't make it so the Zune can work with iTunes or even it's own Zune Marketplace on the Mac. I'm not particularly married to the iPod by choice - but I can't even consider a Zune as long as I can't use it with my Macs.
I can't speak for the Zune team, but I think there are a few factors:

1) Not all, but many Mac users hate Microsoft and they switched to the Mac to get away from Microsoft. Why would they want to use a Zune?
2) Part of the "mystique" of the Mac is selling out to Apple, using all their products, all their services, all their stuff. How many people are going to want to get a Zune?
3) There's still not a significant number of Mac users out there versus the number of PC users. Yes, the Mac market share is growing, but it's still relatively small in the grand scheme of things. The iPod didn't take off until Apple added Windows support. Will adding OS X support help the Zune any, given the above points? I doubt it.

Frankly, given the number of hateful comments I see on my Zune YouTube videos, I think you're in the minority as a Mac user that wants to use a Zune. I wish there were more of you.
 
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  #5  
Old 06-04-2008, 12:45 AM
Macguy59
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Do any of you Zune guru's have a theory as to why the flash based Zunes have done so poorly? Too little too late? I do prefer the Mac ecosystem but I've never looked at Microsoft as evil. Butt ugly PC hardware and just getting tired of XP led me to purchase my first Mac some 5 years ago. I thought that Vista may peak my interest in a Microsoft OS again but they managed to lobotomize it the last 18 months of development. It had the potential to be much better than the dreg they released.
 
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  #6  
Old 06-04-2008, 04:15 AM
Jason Dunn
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Quote:
Originally Posted by byteme View Post
Do any of you Zune guru's have a theory as to why the flash based Zunes have done so poorly?
Good question - I was thinking that the Flash-based Zune was really what Microsoft needed to start moving some serious units, but it didn't seem to help much. I do know they need a sub $79, Shuffle-like device to round out their porfolio...but will that be enough to gain more ground? I'm not sure.
 
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