Two marketing campaigns took me by surprise recently so much that I felt compelled to write this post. Microsoft and Unilever’s marketing campaigns are my nominations for the worst campaigns of the year.
It’s amazing how quickly companies seem to forget. Or rather how quickly they think we, customers, forget. Suddenly, Microsoft is a warrior for honesty with their Honestly campaign that is on air currently in the UK. The ads start with sensible looking people (not the iGen, naturally) saying ‘Honestly’, then talking about how they don’t like change and do not rush into new things, sticking with the old and tested and familiar. Two things annoy the marketing professional in me in these ads.
First, Microsoft seem to have quickly forgotten the time when they were anything but ‘honest’. The company who for decades charged us monopolistic pricing, left us with no choice and exposed us to faulty, mediocre products, suddenly – once the open source competition emerged – tries to position itself as ‘honest’. Honestly?
Second, in their ads they seem to want to reinforce the loyalty of their target audience – sensible, conservative people, but end up patronising them instead. Exploiting fear of the unknown and new is not customer centric marketing, if you ask me. We, marketers, should be motivating people to learn, to discover new better technology and products, not reaffirm our conservative tendency of sticking with the old, even if mediocre, products.
To put it into perspective, Google’s innovative Chromebook netbooks were doing very well. Apple patented a no monitor, wireless charging computer. Amazon were experimenting with drones to deliver their products. Microsoft in the meantime were busy thinking up the ‘Honestly’ campaign…
Together with their current anti Google campaign – based only on the fact that Microsoft can not innovate as quickly or well as their competition – I vote Microsoft’s marketing campaigns to be the worst examples of marketing this year.
Another marketing campaign, this time with a social dimension, that left me wondering, not in a good way, was Unilever’s ‘Why Bring A Child Into This World?‘. I am a parent myself, so I watched it as a marketer, user of Unilever products and a parent. I am not sure what objectives Unilever had but looking at the result, it looks like they completely lost it. Whereas the original premise was good – to focus on the positive, to reinforce the good – the resulting message came out as something between ‘Unilever are oblivious to the world problems’, ‘Unilever have lost touch’ and ‘Unilever are telling us everything will be ok because there is Unilever and they are going to save the world’.
Quoting Microsoft, honestly?
It’s enough to read comments on the ad youtube page to see that they got it wrong. Looking at the few Unilever products I use on a daily basis – often filled with toxins, not always recyclable, and not coming through as caring about my health or the environment, Unilever should save the marketing dollars and invest them into sustainability, supporting social causes, improving their supplier fair practices and making their products organic. Maybe then they can make a more genuine film about how we are all going to be ok?
Ditto Microsoft. Save the marketing dollars and invest into innovation. Honestly.