Microsoft’s Xbox One’s “Get The Facts” (AKA: “Did you know…”) marketing campaign is all over the place lately. You can find it on the official website, on GameStop’s retail portal…. Xbox twitter accounts from every national branch around the globe are spamming it non-stop in a plethora of languages. You can see a few examples at the bottom of this article if you’re curious.
While the campaign itself is not entirely a bad idea (you could almost say it’s necessary in this situation), the problem is in the fact that Microsoft had to do it to begin with. When a company tells me to “get the facts” on its product a month before its release and a considerable amount of time after said product has been introduced to the public scrutiny, my standard response is “you should have told me the facts earlier.”
It’s even slightly unsettling to be basically told “hey, you, ignorant and uninformed customer, get your facts straight.” I guess mainstream consumers that haven’t followed the console’s (mis)adventures from its inception may not perceive that, but as an informed gamer it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow at the message.
The fact that Microsoft is now forced to basically shove “the facts” down our throats in such an insistent way is a not so silent admission that they completely messed up in doing so earlier.
The early hoopla with the draconian policies (most of which have been long rectified) and the “forced” purchase of Kinect in every console’s box have created a muddled marketing message that has few precedents (at least on this kind of scale) in this industry, and Microsoft is still struggling in setting things straight.
The whole thing represents a harsh lesson that not only Microsoft, but the whole industry (and not just this industry) should pay very close attention to: keep things simple, deliver your message on said things simply and as soon as possible. Even more importantly, have it delivered by people that actually know what they’re talking about.
Luckily, not every consequence of the early Xbox One messaging and policy hoopla has been negative. The “Get the facts” campaign is definitely not the only element born from it. Until a few months ago most of the company’s messaging was delivered by its marketing executives, that often didn’t really mind giving self-contradicting and inaccurate statements in order to appease the journalists they were talking to, only to turn around and blame said writers (most of which are veterans of the industry doubtlessly gifted with at least decent hearing and understanding) for reporting their words inaccurately.
Now Microsoft shifted gears, and we see more hands-on execs like Microsoft Game Studios President Phil Spencer and Director of Product Planning Albert Penello taking the podium and actually explaining with a good degree of clarity the relevant information we need to know. They’re most definitely more knowledgeable on the ins and outs of the console and of its games, and even quite a bit more likable.
While I wouldn’t really like to be in their shoes, having to clean up the mess made by their predecessors, it’s good to see that Microsoft learned a lesson that Sony had to learn as well before them. In fact a sizable percentage of PlayStation’s message is now delivered by SCE Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida, who is basically in Spencer’s same position on the other side of the trench.
As usual, mistakes can either result in stubborn self-repetition, or in learning and improving. While I’m not sure that the “Get the Facts” campaign really qualifies as an improvement due to its condescending and patronizing tones, seeing Spencer, Penello and others that actually have an active part in creating the console and its games, taking the stage and at least in part replacing the marketing talking heads is definitely a good step in the right direction.