Quick question: who is the leading provider of high-definition, on-demand content in the US? Comcast? Time Warner? Think again. The Xbox 360 Live platform offers more than twice the number of hours as either of them. How about user engagement? Here’s one statistic: there are more men today, ages 18-34, spending more hours playing games than watching any of the broadcast TV networks.
What does this mean for marketers? Microsoft has a full suite of advertising opportunities from in-game ads to branded destinations, and more. If you offer products or services to that demographic, it’s time to think outside the box of traditional communications channels.
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Microsoft consistently scores well in its overall internet marketing efforts. It’s regularly has one or two videos in the top-10 viewing lists; it gets wide-ranging online news coverage; and it has large social networking interaction. But a close look at their traditional advertising campaigns shows where they are lacking.
Often, brand management’s marketing intentions are hidden on the internet because there are so many things going on at once and so many of them are outside of the control of them. However, in the offline world, where marketers have total control over their message and its distribution, their strategies and tactics become much more transparent.
And that’s where we see Microsoft’s strengths and weaknesses. Let’s look at three of their current campaigns.
- Bing – I actually like this campaign a lot. It stakes out a brand position for Bing vs. Google – Bing is a “Decision Engine”, not a search engine. And it tries to make the claim that there is too much clutter in results pages with search as we know it, but not so with Bing. Microsoft has a number of hurdles to overcome with their product vs. Google and with Google’s overall presence, but at least they have focused their product design and their marketing effort around a grounded brand position.
- Windows 7 – I don’t know what to say about this. What is their brand position? What is their message? People are PCs? People designed Windows 7 while showering? (And of course, who can forget those memorable Windows 7 launch parties that they promoted?) Contrast their ads to Apple’s. Enough said.
- Xbox – For a company locked in a major battle for supremacy in the gaming console business, Microsoft has been relatively quiet on this front. Their gaming division is finally profitable and they have a great product, especially with their Xbox Live service. I would think that now’s the time to ramp up their efforts. No effort is sometimes worse than bad effort.
Although 2009 has not been a stellar year for video games, the industry is poised to start growing again. Big name titles are due to be released through the rest of this year, and exciting new technologies are soon to be released. One such technology is Microsoft’s Project Natal for the XBox 360, a sensor that combines a camera, depth sensor, microphone, and a custom processor. It tracks full body movement, understands commands, and recognizes voices.
Natal won’t come out until 2010, but if it does come out with a good array of games, it has the potential to greatly expand the size and demographics of the XBox user base. And with Microsoft’s 20+ million XBox Live user base, there are golden opportunities for marketers looking to reach this audience with video, animation, branded experiences, and more. Today the user profile is primarily male, 15-34, but with Natal, this could well expand into the Wii’s territory.