The Motorola Xoom Has A Marketing Problem

I must have seen the original TV commercial for the Motorola Xoom tablet over 100 times now and I still don’t have a clue what the darn thing does well. If you’ve watched any mainstream TV in the last few months, you’ve seen the commercial I’m talking about. The one where the guy grabs the device and the next thing you know it’s like you’re watching Iron Man battle a transformer. Why Motorola decided to double-down on a copycat version of the same strategy they used to launch the Droid is beyond me, and I’m certain they’re paying for it in sales. That’s not to say that the Droid strategy didn’t make sense. It did for a phone. I think Motorola just incorrectly assumed that a phone that costs a couple hundred bucks is the same as a completely different device that costs 4 times as much.

Even more confusing is why Motorola chose not to go toe to toe directly with Apple in their first commercial. So many people were waiting for a competitor to show up and just say “we’re better than the iPad, and here’s why”. Motorola is really the only company that could have done that. The Xoom beats the pants of the iPad in several really important categories. It’s got a faster processor, it runs on Verizon’s brand of 4G, it has a bigger screen with better resolution, it’s cameras are better and it does just about every (basic) thing an iPad does….and none of that was in any of their 30 second spots. Why? You just can’t expect to compete effectively with an ad strategy that relies so much on special effects and so little on demos when such a dominant player like Apple is doing so much to define the category with their advertising. Forget the razzle dazzle and the fireworks. You have to show people what the thing does better than your competitors.

In the last month, Motorola seems to be taking corrective action and revamping their marketing. Their latest set of commercials are a much-toned down homage to their target market – a young guy in a business suit folds a laptop until it becomes the Xoom and then he uses it a bit. He flicks through a Google map, does some basic gestures on the screen and you see a momentary flash of a video chat, although it’s unclear what app or service he’s using to do it. A B+ idea with a B minus execution. Then there’s the one where the young guy falls in love with a girl wearing all white, who is listening to white headphones – heavy handed anti-Apple symbolism. Before our eyes, Romeo creates a nifty animation on the Xoom that makes her smile and snap out of her (assumed) “Apple-induced” coma. Again, a pretty-good idea with “meh” execution. You’re still left wondering “how is it better than an iPad?

The most notable change Motorola has made with the Xoom marketing plan, within the last few days actually, was with a complete redesign of the Xoom website. Instead of featuring the commercials at the load screen, they’ve buried the two most recent commercials on inner pages, eliminated the original commercial completely and focused on slideshows with big product visuals that directly compare the Xoom’s features to those of the iPad. Better. They’re even highlighting apps for reading books….finally!

In the next round, I’d like to see Motorola use its marketing department to start highlighting the emotional and situational aspects of what having a tablet is all about. They need to show people the joy that comes from video conferencing with family and friends in high def on a bigger screen, and how they’ve innovated around the reading experience, educational applications and with short spurts of on-demand entertainment. This is what having a tablet is about. They’ve got to recognize that even though the screen is capable of many of the same things a regular PC is, the situations and ways in which we use tablets are different. Tablets make their way to the kitchen counter top, on to the couch in front of the fire…they’re in waiting rooms, in our hands on our commute and in coffee shops. We use those moments to play, to learn, to create and connect. Historically speaking, these are all places and contexts no one has ever had a 10 inch touch screen in their hands, and they are all places where having a tablet at the right moment is a joy. How about showing us some of that Motorola?


  1. Motorola and other handset manufacturers have historically relied on the marketing talent (and cash) at wireless companies. They will not be so lucky with their tablet products.

    Apple's marketing prowess has been honed by marketing not only computers, but also CE devices (hello iPod) for years. Marketing and retail are soft advantages that other tablet manufacturers are going to have a hard time matching. Your examples of Motorola's early failures speak volumes to this challenge.

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