You've probably seen it. Actually, Microsoft has gone out of its way to make sure you've seen it. It's the Scroogled campaign that paints Google as the creepy guy who stalks you with binoculars and sifts through your underwear drawer, all while setting Microsoft up as the safer, more secure choice.
Well played, Microsoft. Or is it?
The purpose of the Scroogled campaign isn't to convince you Microsoft is the better search and email alternative. It's to make you afraid of how good Google really is.
But is Microsoft "scroogling" itself by pushing a campaign focused on Google instead of touting its own benefits? I think so.
Here's how trash-talking your competition comes back to haunt you.
You Look Insecure
You know in the beginning of the movie when The Dork tells The Girl Next Door to forget her crush on the Really Hot Quarterback and find someone who will respect and honor her like she deserves? You know how he typically spends the first 60 minutes of the movie pouting and badmouthing TRHQ to make himself feel better about his own inadequacy and no one likes him for it? I don't have to tell you which role has been cast to Microsoft in this search Lifetime movie.
If you need to spend your time trashing your competitors to convince users not to use their product, you have a sucky product. If you didn't you'd be too excited talking about your benefits and features to worry about someone else's. But you're not. You're spreading negativity about someone not even in the room.
Unfortunately for you, consumers are smart. And they've been through high school. They know the reason you can't take your eyes off them is because you secretly wish you were them.
Insecurity isn't sexy. It makes people wonder why you're more concerned with your competition than your own capabilities. You won't like the answer they come up with.
We Don't do Business With Bullies
Don't get confused – we love train wrecks. We love 72 day marriages, we love comment flame wars and we love YouTube videos of people playing horrible tricks on their friends.
We also love to see others get what we think is coming to them. But we prefer to love all these things from a distance. We don't actually want to associate with the people riding the train to Crazy Town or the person handing out the lashings. Why?
No one wants to be your collateral damage.
If you'll put on your crazy face to attack someone else, you'll put it on to attack me. So while I'll follow your tweet stream and laugh at your jokes, I will never ever do business with you. You will not see my dollars. I will not trust your product. Ever.
People watch how you behave online and how you treat the people around you. Because they know that's the best bet they have to predicting how you will treat them. So act wisely.
We're Tired of FUD
The Microsoft campaign is centered on one thing – creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It's not centered on showing the benefits of Outlook or showing why Bing creates a better search experience. It's designed to spread FUD around Google and get users to make a knee-jerk reaction and run into Microsoft's arms.
Fear spread for fear alone isn't useful and will be ignored. Especially when you're attacking Google's email service for doing the same thing yours does. Just throwing that out there, Microsoft.
So if whining and coming off like an insecure bully isn't the way to building a dynamic brand, what is?
Know What's Weird About You
Any brand worth knowing is a little weird. There's something off about you that is memorable and that helps you spread your message. It makes you magnetic to your target audience. Relatable. Your job as a business is to understand what that thing is and use it in your marketing.
Maybe you're the landscaping company that only uses green-friendly or recyclable products. Or maybe you're the email provider that truly doesn't match ads to content. Whatever your "thing" is, understand it, bleed it and use it to differentiate your brand in the marketplace.
By focusing on what's different about you, you'll stand out without having to resort to low blows.
Craft a Story Around Your Benefits
We spend a lot of time talking about features. We want people to know our product is faster, stronger, and quieter than any other that has come before it. But as a customer, I won't remember that.
We don't remember the features or the fancy specs. We remember benefits.
We remember that because your stove cooks 15 percent faster than the other guy's stove, that's 15 percent more time with your kids at the end of the day.
We remember that because your wheelchair is 10 pounds lighter than similar wheelchairs, my loved one can be present for more family outings because it's easier to lift the wheelchair into the car.
We remember that we don't have to worry about our privacy because your search engine is upfront about what its collects and has easy-to-use privacy filters that even the most novice of users can understand.
To make your brand stick out in a consumer's mind, craft a story around the benefits associated with your product. By tying these together you'll create a lasting impression and plant that benefit in a user's mind so they have something to associate and visualize with your brand.
We don't remember what you did. We remember what you allowed us to do.
Delight Customers through Thoughtful Interactions
A lot of companies spend a lot of dollars investing in flashy marketing campaigns or shiny new tactics. But the truth is a commercial won't make your customers fall in love with you.
How you treat them will.
It's actually pretty simple. We like people who we associate with good, positive feelings and we dislike people who we associate with negative feelings. If you want your brand to be not only remembered, but liked, you need to work the creation of these feelings into every day consumer touch points.
Maybe that means surprise overnight shipping like Zappos does or it might mean sending a handwritten thank you note or surpassing their expectations on a regular basis. By focusing on excellent customer service and truly valuing your consumers, you make them not only fans of your business, but advocates for it. In doing so, you position yourself as the likable brand they want to associate with but building your authoritativeness at the same time.
Putting so much energy into trash-talking competitors and pointing out their flaws does nothing but put the spotlight on them while making you look like an immature bully. Instead, invest your energy into creating the kind of brand experiences you'll want your customers to associate with you.
Image Credit: xkcd