Iby Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & Why the Zune Will Die

The Zune's gonna die, crushed under the weight of its own sprawling marketing strategy. Not since my eighth-grade yearbook photo have I seen an entity struggling so hard to be so cool, only to miss the point completely. Their website proclaims, "Welcome to the Social," asserting they know how you live. Strike one. On their main page, more space is given to bands they've dubbed hip than to their product, presenting hodgepodges of highly cliquey lifestyles rather than, you know, product specs. Strike two.

Apple's greatest trick was convincing us the iPod doesn't play favorites. Their best ad campaign is a bunch of silhouettes dancing around to generic, nameless pop. The silhouettes are placeholders for you. The commercials say, in effect, "you put the music you like in here." That's it.

Microsoft profiles six bands in two months and says, "This is hip, right? Isn't it?" If you haven't heard any of those purposefully obscure bands, Microsoft has not only failed to reach you, it's put itself in a separate social clique. That's like making fun of someone's sneaks, then asking them to buy yours.

Here's a perfect example: Zune.net is currently profiling a hyphy crew called the Pack. Their main page graphic is pretty (though their art department seems to think the way to express hip-hop style is to go emo, then add spray paint). It calls them a "Hip-Hop Hyphy Phenomenon from the Bay Area." That's totally redundant. Hyphy is an incredibly insular hip-hop movement specific to the Bay Area by definition. It's like Microsoft calling Motown a "Pop Music/Soul/R & amp;B Phenomenon from Detroit." The word "phenomenon" just means "thing". All they've said, then, is that the Pack is a hyphy crew. Nice work, Bill's marketeers.

Microsoft is trying to be hip, meaning they must be exclusive to some extent. At the same time, they realize exclusivity has the potential to alienate, so they try to clue you in, shattering the haughty patina they were after in the first place. They're spinning their wheels trying to deliver the impossible, a narrowly targeted message to as many people as possible. All the while we're like, "Uh, what the hell does the thing do?" Strike three. n

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About The Author

Luke Baumgarten

Luke Baumgarten is commentary contributor and former culture editor of the Inlander. He is a creative strategist at Seven2 and co-founder of Terrain.