By now everyone has heard that Microsoft has completely gone back on everything controversial it had planned for the Xbox One. It’s certainly a victory for consumers but what about other companies? What can they learn from Microsoft’s apology yesterday and complete halt to its plans? Well, for starters…
1. It’s Never Too Late
Microsoft may not be the first company in history to reverse a stupid decision, but it’s certainly one of the most memorable- especially considering how it had spent much of the 2000s recovering from the image problem it’d established in the 90s. But this action should show any company that no matter how bone-headed your mistake or how close you are to launching a product your fanbase hates, it’s not too late to change your position and in the end, we’ll respect you more for admitting your mistake.
2. Consumers Want to be Led, Not Pushed
The complete 180 Microsoft has done with the Xbox One feels like a win on a variety of levels- for developers, gamers, and consumer rights on the whole. But, it’s a small victory for those passionate about collecting physical games because the inevitable future is still an all-digital distribution model.
However, as inevitable as that future seems for all media, Microsoft’s approach in forcing it down our throats couldn’t have been more ill-conceived. Consumers have adapted to new distribution methods before and we’ll do it again, but the key to our acceptance is providing clear and concise advantages to its adoption; Not just putting it in place because you’ll reap the benefit. Expecting us to fall in line because we’ve loved your past efforts is a great way to ensure we ignore your future ones.
3. No Matter How Much You Spend in Marketing You Can’t Afford the Internet
There’s never been a worse time for turd-polishing and yet, we see companies do it all the time. It’s not that there’s no inherent benefit to marketing because you need awareness of a product or service before people can purchase it. But trying to shine it up nice and pretty into something it clearly isn’t just doesn’t work in this day and age. Microsoft likely spent millions on Xbox One marketing and while that sounds impressive what has it accomplished? People still loathed the Xbox One due to its restrictive policies and despite their assertion that it offered thousands of dollars in value none of that mattered because the one message ringing loud and clear was:
NO MORE USED GAMES FOR YOU!
There’s never been a worse time for turd-polishing
And the whole of the internet from twitter to Facebook, Amazon polls to basement bloggers and of course, Sony spoke out against it and made their position quite clear. Paying attention to what your customers want or at least acting in the spirit of what you’re pretty sure they want up front can save you millions in marketing and damage control later on because yesterday’s marketing playbook doesn’t stand up today. Consumers are more informed than ever and attempts to spin a product into something it isn’t will be fruitless in the face of an entire planet of consumers whose voice can be heard just as easily as any radio announcer or television host.
4. The Best Damage Control is Honesty
One of the things I found most interesting about Microsoft’s letter to its fans was that they didn’t change their position on where they think this is headed and I respect them for it. Rather than say ‘gee golly we screwed up and all digital is a horrible idea’ they claimed they still believe in a connected, digital future for gaming. That may be true but the high point was that despite their belief in this they put the consumer’s desires first, effectively saying ‘Yes, we believe in this but you don’t so let’s give you what you want.’
That’s honesty of the highest degree because they didn’t try to gloss over the issue with a pandering apology that made it sound like they had a complete change of heart , but rather one that openly stated they still believed in their vision for the future of gaming and conceded that they had heard their customers and were ready to act in their best interests. Again, they should’ve been doing this from the beginning but you have to respect their honest approach to admitting their screwup in losing sight of the thing that makes them successful in the first place- their customers.
5. If you Right a Wrong We’ll Love You Again
This is more of a general statement, but on many sites yesterday comment sections that were previously filled with venomous hatred were now singing an entirely different tune. Many of them promoting new hashtags like #Xboxwon in support of Microsoft’s apology and some even pointing out that they hope some of the features Microsoft was proposing don’t go by the wayside in their decision to stick with the old gaming model.
No one likes to apologize generally because humility’s a painful thing and people love to be right. But in the end, admitting you’re wrong is absolutely the best course of action a company with a massive screwup can take because of course, it’s the right thing to do, but also it humanizes you. Companies are often seen only as entities whose purpose is to delight or enrage us and moments like this ought to be seen as opportunties to remind us that ‘company’ is just a word and what matters is the people running it and their capacity to make something right no matter how painful it is.
What do you think other companies can take away from Microsoft’s reversal?