Microsoft's Zune Takes 'Social' Tack Against iPod

New Music Player to Focus on Sharing, Paint Apple Device as Gear for Loners

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Call it the iPod strategy killer. Microsoft is launching a marketing blitz for its upcoming Zune music player that, unlike the loner aura cultivated by the iPod, pushes the social side of music. Microsoft's idea is that Zune will turn you from the solitary chrysalis who listens to Apple's music player into a social and sociable butterfly.
Designed to challenge the market domination of the Apple iPod, Microsoft's new Zune music player stresses the social side of music consumption. ALSO: Comment on this article in the 'Your Opinion box below.
Designed to challenge the market domination of the Apple iPod, Microsoft's new Zune music player stresses the social side of music consumption. ALSO: Comment on this article in the 'Your Opinion box below.

Hits this week
Zune, which offers users the ability to share their music wirelessly with others, doesn't officially hit the market until this week. But already many of the online and offline creative marketing executions, videos, concepts and footage under the tagline "Welcome to the social" have made their way onto the web. From high-art to low-grunge footage, Zune's marketing plan is to use both paid and viral media to highlight sharing and playing together.

"Apple has done a great job of owning that sense of isolation, if you will," said Chris Stephenson, general manager-global marketing for Zune. "We're quite the opposite. We're about friends, we're about sharing and we're about social."

Comparable to iPod
With a 30G hard drive, three-inch screen and $249 price tag, Zune is comparable to the iPod, but the addition of WiFi is unique to Zune. Users will be able to send songs to another Zune for three days or three plays. Songs will cost 99 cents at the Zune Marketplace or $14.99 for a monthly subscription.

"The key feature they have to sell on Zune is the wireless connection. Right now that's their unique differentiator," said NPD analyst Stephen Baker.

Ads posted on Zune.net feature hipsters, rappers, break dancers and snowboarders sharing music on their Zunes. Microsoft also invited more than a dozen illustrators and designers to interpret the Zune vision at Comingzune.com, which will be redirected to Zune-arts.com.

$100 million launch
Both McCann Erickson and 72andSunny, Los Angeles, are working on the account, with the former doing media buying and the latter fielding creative. Paid media will include cinema, network and cable TV, outdoor, online, and radio. Mr. Stephenson said spending will be "similar in size to the Xbox 360 launch." That launch was estimated at about $100 million.

Zune faces a tough battle in the $5.6 billion digital-music-player market iPod owns with its 75% share. But there may be room for growth. Only 25% of consumers older than 18 use a portable digital-music player, according to an NPD Group survey. Among teens (13-17), 60% already use a player, but 23% said they plan to get their first or a new device in the next year.

Even more encouraging is an ABI Research report that found 58% of iPod owners who planned to buy a new digital-music player in the next year were "somewhat likely" or "extremely likely" to choose Zune over an iPod.

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Andrew Hampp contributed to this report.
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