Microsoft Corp. is used to making big news. But even Microsoft insiders turn to superlatives when describing the global launch of Microsoft Windows 95. "No doubt it was our most successful product ever," said Andreas Berglund, Microsoft international marketing manager. Indeed, since the August 1995 launch, 45 million copies have been sold, about half outside the U.S. That compares with 100 million copies worldwide of predecessor Windows 3.1 sold over three years.
How did Mr. Berglund top his own record? Through a heavy dose of country promotions, a unifying $200 million ad campaign in key regions and a flurry of e-mail to keep country managers up on what peers were doing elsewhere.
"I wanted to have some things that were global and some things that were local to have some cohesive strategy, at the same time giving the subsidiaries freedom," said Mr. Berglund, 37, who joined Microsoft in 1991 in his native Sweden.
Windows 95 entered the world with the largest and broadest ad campaign in Microsoft history. Handled by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., it debuted simultaneously Aug. 24 in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the U.K., moving to 20 more countries by November 1995.
To the tune of the Rolling Stones' 1981 hit, "Start Me Up," TV ads focused on the system's "start" button as the icon to show how the software facilitates personal computer tasks. While the theme was universally similar, copy was translated and executions showed people of different ages, nationalities and cultures to assure that the spot would work across regions.
Throughout, Mr. Berglund looked for efficiency, such as in packaging and logos, which were unified. "I was adamant about us having the same message everywhere," Mr. Berglund said. "If a customer in France picks the product up and he's a multinational, it must mean the same to him as to a colleague across the sea."
Yet Mr. Berglund challenged countries to develop unique promotions to get local managers both excited about the launch and closer to the market.
The resulting scattershot promotions drew media attention worldwide, fueling the impression that something big had just occurred. "If we had done [promotions] all the same, it wouldn't have been as convincing," Mr. Berglund said.
In Poland, for example, managers chartered a submarine to show "a world without windows." In France, Microsoft painted 10 Citroen cars in Windows colors. Microsoft also paid all tolls on a bridge in Sydney and gave free rides on a bus around Johannesburg.
Not all worked as planned: When Microsoft bought a day's press run of The Times of London, Mr. Berglund said, it didn't anticipate the allegations other papers would make that the company was buying favorable editorial coverage.
Maybe that's why for a 1997 successor, code-named Memphis, Mr. Berglund is avoiding hype: "We can't get this kind of attention. I don't think we want it, in a sense." As a marketing event, maybe Windows could own the world only once.