THE BLOG
11/30/2014 05:53 pm ET | Updated Jan 30, 2015

Doesn't Cortana Know That Disparaging Siri Reflects Negatively on Her Parents?

Instead of communicating the unique benefits of the Windows Phone, the latest Microsoft ads focus on disparaging the iPhone. The ads are "cute" and use the Windows Phone's digital assistant, Cortana, to diminish her iPhone counterpart, Siri. Hey Microsoft, do you really think that putting down a significant segment of the smartphone market is the way to sell your products? More importantly, do you think this tactic is new or effective? If you do, here are some headlines from companies that have disparaged Apple products.

What were the results of these campaigns?

Since it is using these tactics, one might presume that Microsoft has data that indicates they work. In fact, the opposite is true. They have not been effective, but they have done wonders for Apple.

Apple's record of success

Since these campaigns have been implemented, just about every successive introduction of the iPhone sets a new sales record. And what about Apple stock? Over the past year, it split 7 for 1, and Apple's market capitalization recently moved north of $700 billion. While it is far from perfect, Apple seems to be firing on all cylinders. Even though Apple produces only high-end smartphones, it is gaining an increasing share of the smartphone market. More importantly, it now commands a whopping 86 percent of smartphone profits. And, Apple is not standing still. It has the culture, momentum, manufacturing and design systems in place to continue succeeding. As of today, Apple reigns as the world's most valuable brand.

Microsoft is looking foolish

Good marketers know that when a company "badmouths" a competitor, it is (more often than not) a big mistake -- especially when the company being disparaged has Apple's track record of success. What's more, at last count, the Windows Phone share of the smartphone market is a disappointing 2.5 percent.

Why is it a big mistake?

There are so many reasons why "knocking" the competition is ineffective. Here are just a few.

  • Free advertising. When companies disparage leaders by name, it just confirms that they are the ones to buy. It also makes "free" positive brand impressions for them in the minds of prospective buyers.
  • No reasons to buy your product. Disparaging the competition does nothing to give buyers reasons to buy yours. In fact, many presume you are knocking successful competitors because you want to ride on their coattails.
  • Makes you look bad. When you disparage competitors, many in the target audience think negatively about you.
  • When you badmouth popular products, you are putting down the people that like them. Those you insult will not be inclined to buy your products, and they will spread the negative word about you to their friends -- resulting in a negative word-of-mouth pyramid that makes unflattering statements about your company and products.
  • Makes you look arrogant and insecure at the same time. Consumers learn at an early age that good companies don't "bad-mouth" competitors. Leading companies know their products are good and have no reason to talk negatively about competitors.
  • Puts a target on your back. When you tell the marketplace that your products are better than popular competitors, you are putting a target on your own back. Many will go out of their way to find defects and prove you wrong.

What should Microsoft and other companies do?

When faced with formidable competitors such as Apple, what should companies do if they really believe their products are better? They should focus on the benefits and advantages of their own products. A successful approach is to use the "elephant's trunk" strategy. It goes something like this, "We give you what the other popular smartphones give you (this neutralizes the competition) plus we give you "this" (you would replace the word "this" with the unique advantages of your product)." Whatever you do, do not mention competitors by name, and do not disparage them. This only backfires as we have seen with RIM (now Blackberry), Hewlett-Packard, Nokia (its handset business is now owned by Microsoft), and others. Apple should send a thank-you note to them for running, and paying for, ads that continue to help Apple's sales and profits grow.