WINDOWS 95 AD BLAST MISSED A MAJOR STEP

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Something seems to be missing in all of the press coverage of the Microsoft Windows 95 launch. It was Bill Gates' shot heard round the world. For months, the hype surrounding the launch was the topic of conversations in boardrooms and breakfast tables everywhere.

Now that the new operating system has been on the market for a few weeks, brisk sales, stock gains and millions of relatively happy consumers suggest the introduction of Windows 95 was the marketing coup of the century.

We saw the first simultaneous global product launch, starting at midnight in New Zealand and moving time zone by time zone around the world.

We saw a truly integrated program, with each element delivering a consistent, exciting message no matter where it appeared in the world.

And we saw awareness and excitement-building marketing events overlaid on a foundation of proven-effective package good techniques.

But what we didn't see was any provision for measurement to generate learning for future marketing efforts. Microsoft spent an estimated $700 million on the Windows 95 launch. How much of it worked, and how much of it was wasted?

We've all heard of the "80/20" rule of thumb for marketing efforts. It can mean Messrs. Maites and Robinson are partners in Robinson & Maites, a full-service promotional marketing agency in Chicago.

that only 20% of a marketing program's total audience are the best prospects; they'll buy 80% of the product. And it can mean that only 20% of the marketing effort's expenditure will generate 80% of the sales. Nowhere in the Windows 95 launch did we see the kind of programs that can help a marketer identify that key 20% .*.*. so that they don't have to spend $700 million in every product launch.

Bathing the Empire State Building in Microsoft colors and buying out an entire run of the London Times builds awareness. Free pizza and 95 cents packs of printer paper build traffic to midnight store events. And $95 American Airlines savings and $90 MCI savings motivate consumer purchase decisions. But none of these provide really useful success measures.

Microsoft chose to embrace traditional package goods marketing. But we wonder if they went a step further: Did they embrace package goods promotion techniques with built-in success measures as well? Techniques such as:

Display contests and merchandising competitions can help a marketer measure actual retailer participation and its impact on sales. For example: Do mass attention-getting displays of Windows 95-a planned purchase item-move product faster than more modest displays? The answer can help Microsoft motivate the right kind of merchandising by retailers.

Direct mail to current Windows users, along with a purchase incentive, can provide data to be matched with software registrations later. The results can help Microsoft determine the optimum value for software purchase incentives. It can also help segment the market-early adopters vs. wait'n sees, personal users vs. business users-for more effective Windows 95 marketing in the future.

Sweepstakes don't drive purchases. (But then, neither do free hot dogs.) But a sweepstakes with in-store entry can help Microsoft measure the percentage of actual buyers vs. mere promotional responders attracted to Windows 95 retail events.

In-ad coupons with consumer data collection could give Microsoft, and participating retailers, a better measure of the relative strength of traffic-building incentives. And compared to software registration data, they can help identify best prospects for future marketing.

What these promotion techniques and others have in common is information capture. They help marketers learn. We didn't see any of these learning techniques executed in the Windows 95 introduction.

In essence, what we learned from the Windows 95 introduction is that if you throw a lot of money at an opportunity, it will become a bigger opportunity. But we already knew that. What we'd like to know is how little we can get away with spending next time.

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