Product Storytelling – Don’t Forget the Context

When launching a new product, it is important that customers understand what problems your product is solving. You don’t have time to tell a long story so you need to make sure your message is effective in creating a desire to learn more.

This is where context can help. If you are trying to tell a story about your product, context is the background information that helps the scene make sense. Without this context, you leave it up to the customer to figure it out on their own.

I recently wrote an article highlighting Box.com as an example for setting good background context on their web site.  New visitors can quickly understand what their product is (secure cloud file access) and who they are positioning it to (business users) thanks to messaging supported by good background context.

I would like to highlight another example that I don’t think does as good a job in providing support for the product message, Microsoft’s new Surface product launch video (see video below).

Microsoft is running this ad as an on-air introduction for their product launch. It is most likely the first contact that people are going to have with the first hardware tablet built by Microsoft  So, what does Microsoft do to help provide context for the product story in the video?

  • They rapidly and repeatedly attach and detach a keyboard from the tablet
  • They leverage an upbeat soundtrack
  • They have young dancers
  • They have old dancers
  • They have kids dancers
  • They have office workers dancers
  • They have hipsters dancers
  • They make a lot of clicking sounds
  • They user tablets as a drum set??

I would say that the music and dancing are about trying to create an emotional message associating the product as being fun and consumer oriented. Now there is nothing wrong about trying to build an emotional message for a product, but this is easier said than done for a new product. Somewhere in this message there needs to be a product, that not only does something, but does it better than the competition.

My best guess for all the clicking noises  is that this is about helping viewers understand that this device has a detachable keyboard and a kickstand (the functional part of the message).

However, if this is the main differentiator of the new device, shouldn’t it be a bit clearer why this is a big deal? Is it about being more productive? If so, you’d think you would see a reference to productivity and getting something done (maybe someone using Microsoft Office?). They don’t even show anyone typing on the keyboard during the entire video.

Without more context around the functional uses of the product, Microsoft is leaving it up the viewers of the video to decide on their own if this solves a problem they have. I believe they are trying to position the device as a “living room and office device” but I think it completely misses the mark on helping us to see why this is important.

What do you think? See something I am missing that pulls it all together?

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  • http://twitter.com/arustgi Aditya Rustgi

    That was just a terrible ad. All I wanted to say to microsoft after seeing that ad is ‘stick it’.

    • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

      That is also true. I asked my wife what they she thought about the ad after it was on at least three times during a show we were watching and she thought it was for a new iPad keyboard. 

  • http://www.youbrandinc.com scottscanlon

    Great point… the ad just screams of classic advertising made to win awards and not sell products. To go off what you said above, is someone going to make a purchase decision (or move closer to purchasing) by these two “killer” features of a kickstand with a unique sound and a detachable keyboard?

    • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

      Exactly! 

      Thanks for the comment Scott!