Microsofting your product

Miracle said something salient when she was in the process of guiding a client in the development of their marketing materials. Like many of you, the customer has a problem in conveying their product benefits ending up with TMI. Resultantly, the materials are bloated and missing the target. Miracle calls this “microsofting your product”. By way of explanation, see this video, a parody of what the iPod package would look like if Microsoft designed it. Turn your speakers up, watch it and then come back. We’ll wait.

Done laughing? It is pretty funny. It’s not so funny when my designers do this. I realize that many of you are very astute with language, it comes with the territory. However, most retailers aren’t. Their relation to products is visual, think imagery. This means a lot less text. Use pictures, not words. It doesn’t mean they’re dumb, think of it as efficiency; it’s faster to derive information from images than text. Besides, they have to sell your product to consumers and let’s face it, if a customer wanted to read a book while shopping, they’d be at Barnes & Noble.

Miracle says

Take a lesson from Apple. Everything about their products is communicated in simplistic terms. Years ago when I got an iMac, the start up guide was 3 photos, literally; take it out of the box, plug it in, turn it on. It’s really that simple. The more information you tack on, the more you make it seem like selling (or buying) these items is a complicated task. You’re selling clothes, not information.

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  1. Eric H says:

    “Use pictures, not words. It doesn’t mean they’re dumb, think of it as efficiency; it’s faster to derive information from images than text.”

    Shorter: One picture is still worth a thousand words.

    Related: Toyota’s planning is done with single sheet “A-3 reports”. If they can do the entire Prius or Lexus project on a single 11″ x 17″ piece of paper, you should be able to make do with much less.

  2. massa says:

    simple visual info has a big impact. no objection. But I think this is only when customers can associate products with their lifestyle. Also, this is possible because it’s Apple, and they are established on this design-oriented marketing (and I’m a long-time mac user).

    If I buy products from unknown brands, I need texts or some knowledge before buying them. I want to know their philosophy, materials, and etc. Reliability is so low without any input. I would have no connection with them. This is not the case when I buy commodity products though.

    BTW, Apple’s website has lots of text. My buying habit is to chekc out the website and to go to Appple store or online shopping @ So, I don’t need any text on the package, or I say i don’t want anything on the packeage to destroy my design expectation from Apple. To convince me to buy products for and from microsoft/windows, I need a lot of texts rather than images. LoL

  3. Erica says:

    As someone who has worked in the retail-end; merchandising product with additional literature is maddening and hilarious.
    Denim jeans do not need a 6 page booklet on the fits and what makes your company “luxury”. Those widgets end up on the floor and thrown in the trash.

  4. Ruby Gallina says:

    Ah… this fits with my thinking about art=abstration.

    Artistic powerfulness (did I make that word up?) seems to be mostly about abstracting, which is a process of out details. By leaving out details and selecting others, some meanings are given more weight and clarity.

    Something I most loved from the Chanel exhibit at the Met was her quote saying, “Always remove details; never add.”

    All this stuff about the pictures vs. the 1K words is the simplistic comparison/explanation.

    The coolness of it is leveraging art (aka, abstractions) to produce produce a powerful meaningfulness. The “SJ” thinkers (in Myers-Briggs terms) at Microsoft are never going to think communicating through art is a better route than attempting to communicate through mind numbing detail.

    The world needs thinkers in all hemispheres: left and right.


  5. J C Sprowls says:

    Ahh… Chanel’s philosophy was so simple. After reading various quotes over the years, I can only guess that her overall point was: “know when to stop futzing”. That’s something I’ve heard from every art teacher I’ve ever met.

    In any event, I loved this video. I work in software during the day, so it’s very appropriate.

    We frequently run into this same problem when it comes to packaging. MarCom wants to generate loads of documents full of 8-pt font. I, on the other hand, want one 3-minute Flash and two pieces of one-page collateral – one for the buyer (the abstract C* level), and one for the implementer (the hands-on Systems Engineer).

    I also want more pictures than text. The goal of collateral should prompt prospective clients to call. We need to learn more about the client and then show them what our product does (or, doesn’t do) and how it’s different/special/better/more appropriate for their business, etc. Through listening, we also learn the limitations of the product and pick up suggestions to make it better.

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