Consumers Party On for Major Brands | Adweek Consumers Party On for Major Brands | Adweek
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Consumers Party On for Major Brands

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Call it a modern-day Tupperware party. Big, mass marketers like Microsoft, Kraft Foods, Ford, Verizon, Nestle and S.C. Johnson are going grassroots, enlisting consumers to throw parties in their homes to sell their products.

For Microsoft, which said it achieved "significant" success from a 14-country house party event in October for Windows 7, the appeal is the opportunity to make a lasting impression in relaxed, intimate settings.

"People are more jaded than they've been before about marketing and advertising," said Microsoft's Kathleen Hall, gm of consumer marketing, worldwide campaigns and product marketing for Windows. "This kind of lets you prove [a product's value] in a firsthand, experiential way. And the role of friends and influencers -- friends who are in the know -- is pretty significant in the purchase decision for a lot of things now."

Though he didn't provide figures, Microsoft director of marketing John Dougherty said that the Windows 7 parties, which involved nearly 60,000 hosts and reached an estimated 7 million people, resulted in a "significant migration towards sales among those who participated."

Such parties are relatively inexpensive for deep-pocketed marketers, costing anywhere from a few hundred thousand dollars -- for those reaching maybe 2,000 consumers -- to several million dollars for those connecting with tens of thousands of people, according to Kitty Holding, CEO of House Party, a consumer activation and experiential marketing company.

On the inexpensive end are Verizon's Fios Super Bowl parties. They're being held Feb. 7 and hosted by 1,000 Fios customers. Leading up to the parties, hosts will share their plans and upload photos and videos at houseparty.com/fiosgameday. The site includes Fios-branded downloads for game day, such as a front door welcome sign, a Fios fact sheet and food recipes.

Corporations "know they need to get intimate with their customers," said Michael Marino, CEO of brand consultancy Big Arrow Group in New York.

"Thanks to the convergence of technology and communications, the value proposition has laddered up to experience-activities that create multi-sensory and affective connections between brands and their customers.

Theoretical for years, it's now cost of entry to sustaining a true global brand."

Although industry-wide statistics were not available, Dan Hanover, editor of Event Marketer magazine, said demand for brand parties is "exploding."

Consumer interest in such parties stems, in part, from them being the first to try new products, as well as them having a hand in shaping consumer opinion.

Marketers typically supply the hosts with free products. In the case of Windows 7, hosts each received a package that featured a Steve Ballmer-autographed edition of the operating system, which retails for $319.99.

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