(A totally made-up title, which as far as I know is NOT a real thing)

Using the Diffusion of Innovation Theory to analyze Microsoft’s Zune Mp3 Player provides much insight into how America’s great tech company produced a busted product. A person must complete five stages to adopt an innovation. The first stage is awareness, and Microsoft failed at making much of the consumer base aware of Zune, myself included. Most consumers only became aware of the Zune through its reputation as a flop. Subsequently, Zune failed in interest and evaluation, the second and third stages.

Is the new innovation perceived to be better than what it supersedes?

When Microsoft launched Zune, the Apple iPod had been available for five years and dominated the market. Subsequent Zune models faced the same issues. For example, Zune HD was released two years after the iPod Touch, and while the products had similar features, iPod was increasingly popular.

Is its use compatible with existing values, experiences, and needs? 

Zune didn’t have unique product features or fill a gap by addressing users’ needs that were unfulfilled by the iPod. In other words, the Zune was not an innovative product resulting in consumers having no incentive to purchase it over an iPod.

Is it easy to understand and use? Can we see observable, visible results immediately?

Ultimately the fourth and fifth stages that a person goes through when adopting an innovation were not possible for most consumers because they had not experienced the first three stages. Had Microsoft prototyped the Zune and had it available to a target audience for trials and testing, it would have learned that consumers didn’t like the look of the Zune design, and many found its bulky size and funky brownish color a turnoff.

Furthermore, if Microsoft had tested a Zune prototype with various demographics, it could have uncovered insight into which features would solve the needs expressed by its potential users. After acknowledging consumer needs and prioritizing them in the Zune development and production, Microsoft could have continued with confidence that it had clearly defined its target consumer audience, making developing the marketing and advertising campaign simple.

Unfortunately, like most aspects of Zune, marketing and advertising fell short of success. Microsoft must have realized that the popular consumer view was that Zune was not better than iPod and cleverly decided to focus the marketing efforts on the only perceived quality it could, that Zune wasn’t an iPod.

There is always a group of consumers who go against the grain as a form of self-expression. For example, highlighting their uniqueness or anti-mainstream values like “consumerism is terrible,” and “brands shouldn’t acquire market domination.”

Ultimately, anti-mainstream consumers who purchased a Zune so they could stand out in a crowd of iPod users resulted in few sales, and marketing to this subset was a missed opportunity for Microsoft.