The idea that consumers would be excited about — let alone throw a party for — the launch of a new Microsoft operating system may be laughable to some (Engadget, Gizmodo, CNBC, AllThingsD, etc), but a day after Windows 7 launched, it looks like the campaign beat Microsoft's expectations.
Microsoft says that double the number of sponsored parties they expected were thrown. The question remains: Was the party idea and video embarrassing or genius?
Together with event company House Party, Microsoft encouraged consumers to throw a sort of tupperware party to promot the launch, where the host receives a gift and encourages his or her guests to purchase products. The oddly produced video are laughable. And come across as parody, so it was no surprise that actual parodies were quick to surface.
"I think our intentions are good . . . the execution might be lacking," Owen Sagness, general manager of consumer and online at Microsoft Canada, told the Montreal Gazette.
But to date, 50,000 people in nine countries have signed up for Windows 7 parties, including 6,000 in Canada -- double the number that Microsoft marketers were targeting for their launch efforts.
So did Microsoft achieve its goals with the parties? Products like The Snuggie have had similar success with viral videos that were mocked to the point of viral sales figures. But is ironic marketing a good approach for tech products?
Those selected to host Windows 7 parties received a free copy of the software and a chance to win a PC. They also received party supplies — playing cards, streamers, balloons and tote bags.
For Microsoft users who were planning to purchase the software, that's a great deal. But unless the parties win over new users, it's not doing much for the brand. So in addition to the parties, Microsoft is runnning a Windows 7 "Discovery Tour" at malls and stores around the country to demonstrate the software to consumers.
After Microsoft's last operating system — Windows Vista — received a deluge of backlash, Microsoft has been more hesitant promoting this version. The company has tried to take users' feedback and Windows 7 has received good reviews so far.
But Microsoft has also gotten into trouble with its marketing messages before. An expensive campaign starring Jerry Seinfeld tried to increase Microsoft's cool factor, while ads featuring a John Hodgman look alike that rebutted Apple's Mac vs. PC commercials mostly made the company look thin skinned. Their more populist "I'm a PC" and Laptop Hunter campaigns get to the heart of the company's popularity with consumers.
While people may hate Microsoft's attempt to turn consumers into brand evangelists, if they got people talking about the brand — and downloading the operating system — it might be worth the blogger potshots. The problem with the Windows 7 launch parties is that it will be hard to show that they actually converted new users.
Microsoft beat expectations in the last quarter, with earnings of 40 cents a share on sales of $12.9 billion. It doesn't need to be seen as cool to sell products. But if the company wants to keep growing its revenue, it should really stick to making its products work and keeping customers happy. It can leave the snarky ad campaigns to Apple, who in fact already has a Windows 7 response campaign: