Slack’s public letter to Microsoft takes a note from Apple playbook

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Screen Shot 2016-11-02 at 15.53.08
It's like it's 1981 again.
Photo: Twitter/Stewart Butterfield

Apple’s pulled some memorable marketing stunts over the years, particularly in its early days when it was still the underdog fighting against much larger opponents.

With the rest of Silicon Valley desperate to have some of that Cupertino fairy dust, cloud-based team collaboration chatroom Slack published an open letter to Microsoft in today’s New York Times — paying homage to an audacious 1981 publicity stunt by Apple at the expense of IBM.

“That feeling when you think ‘we should buy a full page in the Times and publish an open letter,’ and then you do,” Slack boss and Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield wrote on Twitter.

The ad itself is a response to Microsoft’s reported announcement of a Slack competitor, Microsoft Teams, during today’s Microsoft Office event.

It begins as follows:

“Dear Microsoft,

Wow. Big news! Congratulations on today’s announcements. We’re genuinely excited to have some competition.

We realized a few years ago that the value of switching to Slack was so obvious and the advantages so overwhelming that every business would be using Slack, or ‘something just like it,’ within the decade. It’s validating to see you’ve come around to the same way of thinking. And even though — being honest here — it’s a little scary, we know it will bring a better future forward faster.

IBMad
The original ad welcoming IBM to the PC party.
Photo: Apple/Chiat Dat

However, all this is harder than it looks. So, as you set out to build “something just like it,” we want to give you some friendly advice.”

In doing so, it follows a similar layout to an ad published in the Wall Street Journal, when IBM first launched its IBM PC. Apple’s ad began:

“Welcome, IBM. Seriously. Welcome to the most exciting and important marketplace since the computer revolution began 35 years ago. And congratulations on your first personal computer.

Putting real computer power in the hands of the individual is already improving the way people work, think, learn, communicate, and spend their leisure hours.

Computer literacy is fast becoming as fundamental a skill as reading or writing. When we invented the first personal computer system, we estimated that over 140,000,000 people worldwide could justify the purchase of one, if only they understood its benefits.”

The wording isn’t exactly the same, but the layout certainly playfully mimics one of Silicon Valley’s most famous ads. Given that the IBM PC quickly overtook the then-Apple II in terms of sales, presumably Slack’s hoping for a slightly different short-term scenario to play out, of course.

If not, we eagerly await the company’s dramatic turnaround (and vanquishing of Microsoft) in, oh, about 15 more years.

Via: AdWeek