Windows 7 Shrugs Off Viral Jabs

Microsoft Windows 7’s launch video was a viral smash. Too bad it was because people thought “HostingYourParty” was laughable. Still, despite the negative attention this instructional video received, which was intended for people hosting Windows 7 “house parties,” the tech giant managed to reach a lot of consumers. In fact, from October 22-29, more than 800,000 people attended more than 10,000 parties in 12 countries hosted by Windows 7.

In addition to its massive ad campaign, Microsoft wanted consumers to personally see how much better Windows 7 is than its much-maligned Vista operating system. This Tupperware party-type strategy has grown more common of late. Nintendo, for example, employed the same door-to-door type activation when it launched the Wii. It felt that if people actually tried the product, they would like it. Microsoft followed the same rationale.

“This was pretty much a bulls eye in terms of what Microsoft is trying to do,” said Kitty Kolding, CEO of House Party, which created the events. “Technology products are hard to get unless you experience them. This gave people the chance to spend time with it and personalize it.”

Microsoft also viewed the parties as way to celebrate the collaboration it had with its users, said Kolding. More than eight million people participated in Windows 7 beta testing.

This is a solid strategy if you have the budget to pull it off, said Jill Rosengard, svp, Frank N. Magid Associates, a new product strategy and research firm that specializes in the technology field. “So many new products fail because the marketing does not explain the user experience the way a hands on demonstration can. It’s a fantastic idea. It’s just not feasible for most marketers to pull off.”

The early returns have been strong. The NPD Group reported on Nov. 5 that the initial sales of Windows 7 were up 234 percent compared to Vista. Revenue from the operating system, which launched on October 22, was up 83 percent.

Party hosts were given a free version of Windows 7 Ultimate, autographed by Steve Ballmer, as well as branded balloons, streamers, posters, napkins, playing cards, tote bags and a table top centerpiece. For a parting gift, attendees received coupons for hardware and software, as well as the branded goodies.

Many hosts invited friends to bring their own laptops, so attendees could watch tutorial videos. However, it was the video party hosts who received the most attention. “’HostingYourParty’ has been viewed by more than 1.2 million people. Online critiques said the videos ‘reminded them of TV shows from the sixties. They said it wasn’t advanced enough,’” said consumer electronics consultant Rob Enderle. They also invited spoofs (like the one above).

Still, “Folks forget that a lot of the country isn’t like New York and California. It’s a lot more rural. Sometimes going back to past methods can give you better penetration and I think in this case it did,” said Enderle. “They got a decent turn out given the grief that folks gave them for having the parties.”