Good intentions won't sell Windows 7

Microsoft's marketing efforts are strong but off kilter. How can the company make Windows 7 exciting but not goofy?

Microsoft's launch party videos have proven to be entertaining to viewers even if not for the reasons for the marketing department had hoped for. There were a great many comments on my post that provided context to their release, but generally speaking most industry-watchers have been confused as to the goals behind the program, questioning the target audience not just for the videos, but for the launch parties as well.

I reached out to Microsoft for comment but they withheld at this time as the videos are apparently just one step in a much larger integrated marketing campaign.

I personally found the most recent video weird, but after thinking through things a bit I think this is a case of a good idea hampered by poor execution. The videos are well-done and professional and try to connect with consumers in a humanistic tone. The fact that it feels like you stumbled into a shiny-happy Windows world filled with sit-com throwaways is the problem. Even if this is a training video to show others how to throw a launch party, it's hard to connect with the vapid characterizations of party guests.

This is the crux of Microsoft's marketing problems. It's not that they aren't good at technical marketing issues, it's that the brand itself is so voluminous, it's very hard for people to connect to specific products like Windows. And the efforts to persuade consumers isolate the tech media and confuse IT shops.

One of the biggest issues Windows Vista faced was consumer confusion as to why they should buy an upgrade at all. Microsoft did a very poor job of communicating why anyone should care and added such a complicated set of offerings that people simply couldn't figure out what to buy. (Note that Windows 7 also has a very complicated pricing scheme.)

Right now, the Windows brand doesn't have a huge amount of momentum behind it, even if Microsoft itself and Bing do . Getting momentum behind Windows 7, regardless of the methodology should be Microsoft's main goal right now. And the company is pulling out all the stops, from commercials to launch parties to getting the OS out into the channel sooner than retail, it is trying to gain back the lost mind-share.

The challenge is that companies like Apple, with a significantly smaller share of the operating system market, have developed such sophisticated and stylized marketing, that Microsoft has a very hard time competing with the overall effect. So, Microsoft has instead gone after the mythical "every-man" (or every-man, woman and racial/gender/ethnically diverse party in the world), which falls way short for we Valley media types that will mock anything and everything.

But the target customer for Windows 7 may actually like the experience of a launch party simply because it humanizes the operating system and allows them to ask silly questions like how to burn a CD. These were not made for sophisticated tech buyers and that may not be a bad thing.

The point is that PC manufacturers need people to buy more computers and really only Microsoft can make that happen until vendors (and consumers) embrace Linux or switch to Macs.

In the meantime, check out another party video where your grandparents and their friends drink lemonade and edit photos. Seriously.

 

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