The Wrong Side of History


I’m not going to pretend that I’m always right about stuff, or even that I’m usually right. I’m not a “visionary” or natural entrepreneur. What I am good at though, is spotting an egotistical d-bag that just doesn’t get it.

The other night I was following my usual evening routine: lay down in bed, whip out the ear plugs and listen to either a good book or my guilty pleasure. After realizing that since my wife is out of town for work I have no need for ear plugs, I took advantage of the midnight freedom and stood the iPad up and cranked it as loud as I could.

It was during this point that I stumbled across a gem of a video on YouTube. I watched Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, criticizing the iPhone back in 2007 just after it’s release. Watch the HILARIOUS video here.

As I’m listening to the guy go on about Microsoft’s “long term strategy” I couldn’t help but notice something: he’s focusing on the wrong thing! Steve is talking about price point, features, price again, marketshare advantage, and just about anything else that diverts attention away from the fact that Microsoft doesn’t have a well-defined image. They have no why.

So how did this happen? Steve gave a really good example of how they screwed it all up. Quite simply, Microsoft’s mindset was that their customers wanted a cheap device that they were familiar with and that had every feature you could imagine crammed in (I wonder how many focus groups they ran to get that answer). They didn’t understand their customers. They didn’t understand the market. They tried to float by on their clout and the false sense of confidence that nobody was challenging them.

By focusing on price, features and the transaction, they missed the chance to share their identity. I don’t mean the corporate name or clever tagline – I mean who they really are. That’s what we assume we are getting when companies talk to us, right? When we see an advertisement or speak to a sales rep., everything that is communicated to us becomes the identity of that company. THAT is who they really are.

Most of us will spend the extra money to buy the same product or service from someone we know and trust. There is a reason I buy my milk from Target and not the shady convenience store on the corner. It’s the same brand of milk at the exact same price, but who would buy milk from some hole in the wall when there’s a perfectly good Target down the road? After all, I know Target. They’ve been good to me. I feel like it’s my store and I always have a great experience there (even if I walk out with $80 extra worth of stuff I didn’t expect to buy when I walked in).

Steve Ballmer thought people would never pay $500 for a cell phone. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that we weren’t buying a product at all, we were buying an image. When I shared the video with my step-mom this afternoon she asked me, “What’s a Zune?” And there it is. That, my friends, is what the wrong side of history looks like.

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2 thoughts on “The Wrong Side of History

  1. rex says:

    Uh mad props on this one. On point for sure. Microsoft is like the Yahoo of computer hardware. So much potential wasted.

    P.S. I want to write a guest post for your blog some time about the slow creeping of Black Friday earlier and earlier in the sales season. I almost published a piece about it on my own blog but…my blog is a family platform, not exactly ready for a marketing rant.

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