Microsoft is currently running a teaser spot for its new mobile software, Windows Phone 7. The ad is charming; the folks at Microsoft have clearly found an insight that will resonate with people. The big question, of course, is whether Microsoft can turn the insight into a meaningful product benefit.
In the new spot, Microsoft highlights a basic problem with smart phones; they are simply too engaging. People with smart phones have a tendency to tune out the people around them. This can be incredibly frustrating. Almost everyone has had the experience of talking with someone only to have them look down in the middle of the conversation to check the phone. This is a rather deflating moment. The clear message: my phone is far more interesting than this conversation. The feeling is captured beautifully in the spot: “Really?”
This happens to me in class fairly often. I’ll be doing my best to be engaging and witty and informative, and I’ll look up to find someone totally focused on their phone. So I become even more animated. I tell my best jokes and pull out my most interesting examples. And they are still focused on the phone. It seems totally hopeless; I just can’t compete with a smart phone. When a student is absorbed in a phone in the middle of class I can relate to the Microsoft commercial. I’m tempted to embrace the campaign idea: “Really?”
There is a difference, of course, between an insight and a benefit. An insight is a bit of knowledge about how people think and act. A benefit is a reason to use a product or service.
The big question now is whether Microsoft can use the insight to deliver a benefit. I think this will be hard. How do you get people to stop focusing on their phones? I suppose you could produce a phone that doesn’t work very well, or is so frustrating to use that it isn’t worth the time. You could also create a phone that simply shuts off, perhaps after you’ve used it for more than seven hours in a day. It looks like Microsoft will promote the product by saying it is so easy and quick to use that you can check it and then focus on other things. I’m just not sure this is how the world works. There is always something else to check, or a new app to use, or a new website to visit.
Of course, this is all speculation. We will learn more when the product actually appears and people use it. Microsoft has an insight. Now the challenge is to turn it into a benefit that matters and they can own.