The Microsoft-Apple "Bear Hug:" Winner or Loser for Microsoft?

Posted by Angela Jeffrey on Dec 10, 2015 2:01:34 PM
Earlier this week, Microsoft launched a TV spot that has raised the ire of some and the admiration of others.  You’ve seen it: the spot features Microsoft employees caroling about peace as they walk to an Apple store to serenade their competitors. 


 

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The song, “Let There Be Peace,” is lovely, and the thought is lovely … but what does this strategic “Bear Hug” actually do for Microsoft?

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A “Bear Hug” is one of the “stratagems” featured in Playmaker Systems Standard Table of Influence, developed by the brilliant Alan Kelley in his book, The Elements of Influence. A Bear Hug is defined as, “To agree overtly. The conspicuous support of another player's position or message.” In this case, Microsoft hugged Apple, which has always been in the dominant position. Did Microsoft look stronger for doing so?

See for yourself: does this ad leave you feeling better about Microsoft, or does it look like Microsoft is using Apple for its own glory?

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Interestingly, there was far less media coverage on this spot, and its “Bear Hug” strategy, than I would have expected.  Most outlets, like Adfreak and Advertising Age, ran a press release or wrote a short piece basically staying neutral about the gesture. 

But a few advertising professionals, like Will Burns of Ideasicle and Forbes, didn’t buy the hype or the hug for a nanosecond.

“Microsoft doesn’t really want peace. They just want to be perceived as wanting peace while they continue to try and outsell Apple.  As a result, Microsoft looks more like it’s surrendering than appealing for any form of peace,” wrote Burns. He then polled his advertising friends on Facebook, and most concurred that the spot was disingenuous and Microsoft lost.  See the full Forbes story, “Microsoft Sucker Punches Apple with Love.”

But what do less sophisticated, every day consumers make of this ad?  We ran it through our ABX ad effectiveness survey yesterday to find out, with 150 consumers responding. The results were startling: ABX data challenges some of the pundits.

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  • The ABX Index at 117 says the ad is ‘effective’ at 17% above average.
  • The Reputation score at 221 is HUGE - (which means folks felt better about the company after watching the ad).
  • The Action score at 15% above average is also good.

"Ads like these are not really designed to deliver a message.  They are more ‘feel good’ spots which is probably why the reputation score is off the charts.  From a messaging perspective, the ad doesn’t focus on delivering brand messages about Microsoft or their products.  Rather, the focus is on the spirit of the Holiday and people coming together in Harmony.  This is reflected also in the Likeability score (not shown, but it is 188). The ad plays off the Microsoft versus Apple history and background and even ‘old friends’ (or competitors) can come together at this time of the year.  It’s more designed to make people connect people emotionally with Microsoft that to drive specific messaging," said Martin Geraghty, Vice President Research for ABX.

At the end of his Forbes piece, Burns wrote, “… I do applaud Microsoft’s new marketing team for recognizing the power of emotion in advertising.  Could be a new day for Microsoft advertising.”

And we at ABX agree.  Something good IS happening in Microsoft advertising.  The chart below shows average ABX scores for Microsoft and Apple in several media types, and Microsoft is leading.Electronics_Waterfall-052706-edited.png




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