Microsoft holds 60,000 simultaneous launch parties for Windows 7
Lots of companies offer party packs for holidays and special events, but never before has there been a party pack — or a party — quite like this one. This party was offline and online at the same time. It was local and global simultaneously. It took place in 14 countries and in eight languages.
I’m referring to the launch parties for the introduction of Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system. Microsoft approached promotional party planning agency House Party with the idea that they wanted to bring the consumer directly into the product and give them the opportunity to personally share it with their friends and own the experience. What better way to share an experience than with a party?
“The first thing we did is strategize about the intended outcome of the parties,” Kitty Kolding, House Party CEO, said. “We talked about what we wanted to have happen when we were done and also during the parties to create the experience that would drive folks to test out something as complex and sophisticated as an operating system in a social environment.”
House Party developed a party pack that would entice consumers to have launch parties in their homes where they could demonstrate Windows 7 to their friends and social networks. At the center of the party pack was a signature edition of Windows 7 Ultimate. People who received the party packs got the software ahead of its public release. They created different themes to meet specific needs, including a tutorial that explained photo sharing and a kids’ privacy version to show how to operate the parental controls. The party hosts could self-select and decide which version they most wanted to share with their friends.
Next, they started the host recruitment phase. Prospects received an informative email, a link back to a landing page and a full-disclosure explanation of what the parties were, when they would take place and the requirements for hosting one.
Host screeners sifted through hundreds of applications. Location was critical, Kolding said, “Because we wanted to have the right number of people in each market.” They were also filtered on their knowledge and passion of Windows 7 — some party planners were university tech professors who held parties in their lecture halls for 100 people — as well as their existing operating system, basic knowledge and ability to upgrade their own system.
They launched a series of eight microsites for the event, one in each language, all tied together into a single portal, from which party planners could send out e-vites, interact socially with other party planners and read exciting ideas others came up with to make their parties fun and unique, access a resources page populated by the party planners themselves, watch short video vignettes describing various aspects of the software with guidelines on how to use them and click on links to Microsoft’s OEM and retail partners. The real hot spot on the site, however, was a map that showed where all the parties were taking place worldwide. Kolding says that some hosts kept the microsite up during their party and alternated between the video vignettes and the demonstrations of the software itself.
One of the most eye-opening results, Kolding said, was the sheer volume of transactions. There were 60,000 parties worldwide in a single week, and as a direct result of them, “We moved 3.4 million units of Windows 7 and tracked 25 million unique conversation partners and 1.8 million person-hours of hands-on brand time or in-person brand exposure.”
Overall, what was most impressive to Kolding was the commitment that Microsoft had to bringing the consumer into the experience.
“They were so focused on personalizing and giving the consumer an opportunity to own this brand and own this launch experience,” she said. “Seeing a company as big and powerful as Microsoft take the consumer so seriously was really inspiring.” —Lynn Russo Whylly