How Making a Mistake Became Referred to as “Pulling a Zune”


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

Stage 1: Awareness of Zune

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. 

Stage 2 : Opinion of Zune

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, the iPod was increasingly popular. 

Stage 3 : Consideration of Zune

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

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

Stage 4: Preference

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

Had Microsoft used a prototype 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 design, and many found its bulky size and funky brownish color a turnoff. 

Furthermore, if Microsoft had tested a 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 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. 

Stage 5: Adoption/Purchase

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.

The takeaway

The fourth and fifth stages that a person goes through when adopting an innovation were not possible with the Zune for most consumers because they had not experienced the first three stages. Successful products and services need visibility, so run the tests, conduct demos and make smart business choices based on research data and analytics.

One response to “How Making a Mistake Became Referred to as “Pulling a Zune””

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