Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week
Winner: LeBron James
Loser: Microsoft Surface Tablet
Folks, LeBron James has had a rough time of it as a brand — arguably he has made it difficult for himself at times (i.e., how he handled his Cleveland departure) but in some ways he hasn’t been given the space to be forgiven from some of his earlier indiscretions.
But the rules of the performance brand have kicked in now with the Heat’s victory and this means that James has just carved out some very positive “breathing room” for his brand to be rejuvenated.
ESPN has done a great piece on James: espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2012/story/_/id/8097220/lebron-james-tosses-aside-negativity-nba-title
style=”font-size: 18px;”>In other words, watch this space: the James brand is about to experience a rebirth.
Apple can be counted on to surprise, inspire and delight; Microsoft
can be counted on to trip over its own feet when it comes to marketing.
And they’ve done it again with Surface.
What was Microsoft thinking? I’m not sure they were.
The name Surface is bland and forgettable. It’s unlikely to drive brisk Apple-like lines around the block.
Will people really say “I love my Surface.”
Moreover, they are actually using the name from an earlier launch of a
different Microsoft product. That’s right. They didn’t brainstorm a
fresh name for a fresh product, they went back to a product release from
2007 aimed at a corporate market and tried to make it fit a consumer
That product was also a touch-screen device. The difference was it was the size of a coffee table (see for yourself) not a feather-light marvel of engineering.
Nothing says we’re out of creative solutions than this kind of lazy
repurposing of old thinking. But this brings us to the real problem of
the name. From almost all the technical reviews so far, Surface is
actually really good and might even transform the tablet market.
In other words, Microsoft isn’t out of creative solutions, but it has failed to express this fact.
Getting a product’s name right is critical. Samsung’s Galaxy range of
tablets both inspires and informs. Put the name together with Samsung’s
great advertising and a potential buyer instantly understands that
there is a “galaxy” of possibility in the device Samsung is offering.
You have to wonder how a company like Microsoft with so many
resources including a CEO who was a top marketer himself could make this
kind of mistake. But it’s been done before by big companies that should
have known better. Hydrox comes to mind, a great cookie – the original
“Oreo” in fact— whose name sounded like a detergent.
Fact is, Microsoft has always been clunky when it comes to reaching
consumers and in this case there might be another focus for the company
that caused it to overlook the importance of the naming process. The
most likely reason Surface exists is because Microsoft, a software
manufacturer, thinks it is high time that hardware manufacturers start
making tablets that runs Microsoft software, so things like Office have a
chance. It just might have wanted to give the market a nudge.
Microsoft beat Apple long ago by picking the PC as the platform that
would rule the world. Maybe Microsoft is doing the same thing with the
And, who knows, with Microsoft’s great distribution, even Surface
might catch on with consumers despite the name. Still, they ought to
have tried harder to get the name right.
And remember, it’s always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.
TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: A brand’s name matters — get it right!