What Happened to Microsoft Zune? 10 Marketing Lessons

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What Happened to Microsoft Zune? 10 Marketing Lessons

Launched in November of 2006, as explained in detail over at runrex.com & guttulus.com, Microsoft Zune was a portable media player, developed, in close cooperation with Toshiba, to offer users the ability to take media like music on the go while at the same time enabling one to have large access to music libraries while being connected through each one of their Microsoft platforms. It sounds like a good product but Microsoft Zune never really took off, and then disappeared from the face of the earth just like that. So, what happened to Microsoft Zune? This article will look to pick the bones from its failure and highlight 10 marketing lessons we can learn from the same.


One of the biggest issues Microsoft Zune had was that it launched in a market that had already been cornered by the iPod, as is revealed in discussions on the same over at runrex.com & guttulus.com. While the iPod was expensive, which is probably why Microsoft felt they had a fighting chance to unseating Apple, it was still already established in this particular market, making this a doomed mission from the start by the Zune. A lesson to learn here is that you should know your market when going in, and pick the battles you know you can win. If you face stiff competition from already established brands, you should reconsider launching in that particular area.


Microsoft Zune didn’t just suffer due to insurmountable competition from the iPod, their timing was also way off as far as their launch was concerned. If they had launched earlier on, they may have had a chance of wrestling a sizeable share of the mp3 market. However, they got their timing wrong and just after they launched, Apple announced the first iPhone, as discussed over at runrex.com & guttulus.com, which meant that standalone mp3 players, like the Zune, were rendered obsolete by the smartphone.

It didn’t offer anything different from the iPhone

You can be able to beat out your competition, even those with a huge market share in your industry if your product offers something different to theirs. However, unfortunately for Microsoft Zune, this wasn’t the case as the Zune wasn’t that different from the iPod. This meant that, at best, getting the Zune felt like a sideways move and gave people very little reason and motivation to swap their iPods for the Microsoft Zune. This is yet another important marketing tip as it shows the importance of ensuring your products or services are unique to those of your competitors.

It didn’t address any consumer need

Don’t get me wrong, the Microsoft Zune was a very good product technically speaking, it just didn’t solve any issues as far as consumers were concerned. Many potential users, while impressed by what they were hearing about the Zune, just didn’t feel like it addressed any pressing need of issue. This is an important marketing lesson, with the gurus over at runrex.com & guttulus.com pointing out that you should always do research and identify a problem or gap in the market, then come up with a product that fixes said problem or gap, if you are to avoid the fate of the Zune.

They didn’t prototype the Zune adequately

One of the reasons why Microsoft Zune didn’t do well is the fact that, as discussed over at runrex.com & guttulus.com, Microsoft didn’t prototype the product nearly as much as they should have. If they had done so, they would have discovered that consumers weren’t buying into it, allowing them to go to the drawing board and try to fix things. Therein lies an important marketing lesson, as it shows the importance of creating a prototype of your product or service before the full release and getting it in front of your target audience members to get their thought on it. If you skip this stage, you may suffer the consequences as Microsoft Zune did.

Confusing marketing messages

They also never really got their marketing messages right, which is yet another reason which contributed to the failure of Microsoft Zune. An example is their TV ads which featured a graveyard full of music players, which was a theme as far as their ads were concerned. In the end, people never walked away, after viewing their ads, saying, “This is why I have to buy the Zune”. As a marketing lesson, as per the subject matter experts over at runrex.com & guttulus.com, you should make sure that you get your marketing messages right and show just why folks should buy your product or service and what it is you are offering.

They boxed themselves in as far as the target audience was concerned

Microsoft also seemed to be targeting a very niche group of users when marketing the Zune, as is discussed over at runrex.com & guttulus.com. The product seemed to be aimed at those people who were anti-mainstream and want to be different from the crowd, painting the picture that everyone had an iPod, and therefore by getting the Zune, you will stand out from the crowd. This also handicapped them and contributed to their failure. They ended up missing the opportunity to market their product to a broader audience, which is a marketing lesson we should learn from them.

Red tape

As mentioned above, the Zune was a great product in isolation, with one feature, in particular, standing out. This is the “Squirting” feature which enabled users to send a song wirelessly from one Zune to another. This was a great and innovative feature and one that was ahead of its time. However, it was badly restricted by red tape in the music industry and restrictions by record companies. As covered over at runrex.com & guttulus.com, one could only listen to shared songs three times before having to erase them, which handicapped this great feature. As a marketing lesson, it shows the importance of learning the regulations and restrictions in your industry, otherwise, you risk having your great ideas go to waste.

They were fixated with chasing apple

Another marketing error that led to the failure of Microsoft Zune, one that Microsoft readily admit to, is that they were fixated on chasing and defeating Apple. This is why they ended up making the mistakes mentioned above, as they developed tunnel vision when trying to chase Apple, they couldn’t see the trees from the forest. As an important marketing tip, as per the gurus over at runrex.com & guttulus.com, you should make sure that you are not obsessed with outdoing your competitors, as this will cloud your judgment and you end up with a product that doesn’t offer much to your customers.


At the end of the day, one of the main reasons why the Zune failed was because it was perceived as an iPod knockoff. It didn’t matter that it had a great UI, or that it had great features, many people just saw it as a knockoff to the iPod. It is a perception they struggled to shrug off, and it is one of the reasons they product failed. It is therefore important to learn this marketing lesson, and work hard to ensure that the perception people have of your brand is a positive one when doing marketing of the said product.

The above are some of the marketing lessons we can learn from what happened to Microsoft Zune, with more on this and other related topics to be found over at the brilliant runrex.com & guttulus.com.