Back in January 2013 Microsoft uploaded this video to Youtube, titled “Child of the 90s.”

An advert for the new Internet Explorer, it aimed to appeal to Generation Y‘s sense of nostalgia.

On the surface, it seems like it does a good job. Huffington Post reporter Michale Rundle wrote:

…the effect for the right audience – including yours truly – is just to make you a bit weepy for a lost time when the internet made weird noises when connecting and Rage Against The Machine were still making albums.”

As a member of Gen Y, I agree. It definitely struck that nostalgic note; if doing that was their sole purpose, I’d judge the advert successful.

But if their goal was to “sell” Gen Y users on Internet Explorer, they failed.

Why Microsoft’s Child of the 90s Ad Fails

"You Might Not Remember Us" screenshot

A screenshot from Microsoft’s Child of the 90’s advert.

First, did it fail?

According to browser usage data from W3Schools.com, for at least 2 years before the Advert debuted, IE usage had been steadily declining. After the debut of the new ad, those usage figures continued to decline.

(W3Schools includes a disclaimer below their data that their polling data is likely to be skewed toward the internet savvy, but the target audience here is Gen Y, which typically IS among those considered internet savvy.)

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, there are 2 big ways in which I think this was a fail for Microsoft.

Positioning IE As Part of the 90s

First, the video is all about the 90s. That’s the point, right? To create a sense of nostalgia among Gen Yers?

Unfortunately, however, I think in general most people already see IE as outdated. They don’t need to be reminded that it’s something they used in the 90s. When it comes to technology, they want to be on the cutting edge, not in the past.

Still, I’m pretty sure this was intentional on the part of Microsoft’s ad team—they wanted to use something that’s been held against them and turn it to their advantage. But I don’t think they were successful here.

Sure, they included the cute line, “You grew up. So did we.”

Yet they failed to prove that. We don’t see any new features or examples of how IE has grown up. They don’t show us that it’s suited to the needs we have today. Most importantly, they don’t solve a problem for the user. 

Using A Vague Call to Action

Second, their call to action is pretty weak.

If they’d done a killer job of explaining why users should “reconnect” with IE, that would have been one thing. Sure, it’s vague, but users who had a problem that only IE could solve would still seek it out and download/try it out.

But without showcasing a strong line up of features users want, the call to action needs to be a lot stronger. After all, what does “reconnect” mean? Do they want you to follow them on Facebook or Twitter? Do they want you to give them a call? Visit their website on your dial-up modem?

Instead, they could have compensated for the issue above by including a CTA that said something like, “Check out our new features today.” And a link to a landing page on their website that clearly showcases the new features.

This is “feel good” marketing at its purest. But it doesn’t make me want to go back to the 90s.

Worried your marketing is making the same mistake? I’d be happy to take a look. Leave a comment below with a link to your latest content or campaign.