This is a guest post by Michael Pinto who is the Creative Director of Very Memorable, Inc. a design firm that specializes in the youth market and interactive media.
With the iPhone taking away the mind space of the iPod, the Zune already seems to be in an orphan category with consumers. A sign of this is the recent high profile blowout when GameStop announced that they planned to stop selling the Zune. However, to me the surprise was that GameStop had been selling the Zune in the first place. I’ve been to several locations over the last year or so and I’ve never spotted one in a store. Perhaps the reason for this is that I was hunting to buy yet another Nintendo DS Lite and not looking for an MP3 player as a stocking stuffer.
In fact the only time that I’ve seen a Zune in the wild was while I was running through Kmart. Now think about that for a second: The biggest market for this device would be those hungry for music — tweens, teens and young adults. This market is very style conscience to say the least, and the one place they might encounter this device is in-between the linens and pantry items. Also the few times that I’ve seen representatives of the youth market at Kmart they were hunting for dorm room necessities rather than objects of entertainment.
The first problem with the Zune is it’s price point, which ranges from $150 to $200. This is a disaster as the iPod, which is seen as more high end, sells the shuffle for $50. Zune needs to be Pepsi to Apple’s Coke in this department and have their main product on the lower end of the cost spectrum. In fact, the best thing for Zune to do is to have a $25 model if they want to thrive in a recession based economy. On the low end, the iPod shuffle doesn’t even feature a screen, however, what makes it work so well is that it acts as a fashion accessory more than anything else. Zune needs to focus more on the form factor rather than the technology inside the device.
After having a low priced base model, the next for Zune to do would be to offer limited edition versions of the device aimed at specific niche audiences. These limited edition Zunes should feature co-branding and creative collaborations with both well known trademarks and fashion forward artists. For example, there should be a Hello Kitty Zune, or on the high end a limited edition Takashi Murakami Zune. Microsoft should also go after unfashionable males with both sports and comic book themed Zunes. And then instead of having a generic display at Kmart, these limited edition Zunes should be available at targeted retail locations and high profile events. So for example, you’d be able to buy a Iron Man Zune at the Sand Diego Comic Book Con much in the same way you’d buy a Star Wars Mimobot Designer USB Flash Drive.
Zunes should always come pre-loaded with music, in fact this would be a natural direction as the White Stripes and Nine Inch Nails have already released pre-loaded USB drives in the past. This could be taken to the next step by including music videos and exculsive audio interviews. In fact, Microsoft should collaborate with services that sell audio recordings to an audience after a concert. So instead of people owning just one iPod, a fanboy or fangirl might own several special edition Zunes that they’ve collected over the years like a beloved set of Swatch watches.
Also see: Zune 2: five things Microsoft did right
The one thing that Microsoft has done well with the Zune is with their creative online branding efforts. In fact their website is much more innovative than anything that Apple has done so far (just look at their wonderful use of commissioned animation). However, they need to push this to the next level by addressing social media — this is a bit of an irony as their initial tagline was “welcome to the social”. Microsoft needs to have an interactive presence on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter in association with well known musicians. HP for example has an engaging website in which they collaborated with Gwen Stefani to sell printers, if anything this sort of strategy would be much more natural to sell an MP3 player.
About the Author