Ballmer WP7

Windows Phone Marketing Pt 1 : At Wit’s End [Editorial]

By now the head honchos at Windows Phone must have realized that making a great product does not result in great sales by itself. What did they think? That they’re Apple Inc? Only that can explain the complete apathy of Microsoft executives towards marketing Windows Phones. Instead of the anticipated marketing blitz, we had the print, electronic and cyber media replete with woeful tales of poor (or) zero advertising, lack of push by carriers and indifferent attitude of sales personnel. In recent times they (and Nokia) have made efforts to address these issues, but Windows Phones sales continue to languish in the 1% range. Clearly, something vital is missing from the marketing strategy.

Disclaimer – I’m not a marketing guru. (Steve Ballmer is one, apparently). But I’m an early adopter in India and brandishing an unknown smart phone has automatically made me the brand ambassador of sorts for WP7 in my extended social circle. And I have tried hard to ‘sell’ Windows Phones to my peers in the last 14 months, with abysmally low success rate. (Disclaimer 2 – Microsoft has not paid me for the phones I failed to sell) Now consider this for a moment – I’ve been ardently following WP7 ever since Project Photon was shelved and Microsoft decided to go for a major OS reset, so it would be safe to assume that I know a lot about the OS and its positives/negatives. I even occasionally write about it in this blog. (Didn’t you notice that?) But if I, with my years of knowledge and experience, could not convince my friends to buy Windows Phones, how can I expect sales personnel with 2 week crash course to sell it to strangers? To be fair, I never had any difficulty in attracting attention to begin with. My Dell Venue Pro was, and continues to be, one of the more attractive phones on offer. I would whisk it out, show off the slide out keypad, the sleek tiles scrolling smoothly and never failed to get oohs and aahs from my friends.

Buddy -  Wow, cool phone. Is it a Blackberry? [C’mon, we’re talking early 2011 here. Blackberry was still the coolest thing in India]

Me No, its much better than Blackberry or even iPhone. It’s a WINDOWS Phone.

Buddy Windows Phone? No kidding? Computer on a phone, eh? Hey listen dude, I’m going to catch this flick. Talk to you later. [End of conversation]

Don’t get me wrong. Windows is not hated in India (apart from some techno-geeks maybe, but they are a very minuscule percentage). The vast majority of educated Indians respect Windows, they are in awe of it or even afraid of it. “Must be damn complicated, this phone. Wonder if I’ll be able to switch it on by myself,” they would think. And It took considerable tact and patience from me to cross this mental barrier and get them interested in the features.

Buddy So, why do you say its better than other smart phones?

Me Well, it’s a totally new approach. You have these Tiles and Hubs to manage your apps, the apps are laid out by Pivots in Panoramic style for easy viewing. [Drat, I can see from their faces that these words are freaking them out even more than what Windows did, so I change the track] You see, Its is the most beautiful and user friendly OS.

Buddy What’s an OS?

Me - Uh, never mind. Look, these tiles are LIVE, they dynamically update the info you need to see, right on your home screen

Buddy Interesting, the others can’t do it?

Me Well, some can, but in a different way. They have notifications and such things; Android has widgets, but not as good as Live Tiles. This is the Full Monty. Plus, this has a camera button that activates the camera even without unlocking the phone. [I proceed to launch the camera from sleep and click his photo to demonstrate]

Buddy Hey, nice photo you took of me, man. Send it to me by Bluetooth.

Me Erm, well… Bluetooth file transfer doesn’t work with this.

Buddy Huh? This is a smart phone, right?

Me Of course it is. I mean…. hey look, this has Facebook and Twitter integrated into the OS!!

Buddy How does that help… this, whatever this OS thingy is?

Me Ha!!  You don’t need a Facebook or Twitter app for doing most of the things in your social network.

Buddy Most of the things?

Me Uhh… well, yeah for some things you still need the Facebook app.

Buddy Yet you say this is the Full Monty?

Me Never mind that, Windows Phones have Deep Linking, AppConnect, Background Agents, Hardware Acceleration….

Buddy Dude, know what? Let’s go get some beer……

No prizes for guessing that I’m not making much headway. I mean, I used all the buzz words Microsoft has coined about WP7 but fail to get any buzz around. I’m frustrated, and more so when the iPhone guy says matter of factly, “It has iCloud. It magically syncs all your contacts and appointments between all your devices”. Damn it, that sounds so simple. And makes perfect sense too, no more explanations needed. Or he says, “iPhone has Siri, ask her whatever you want, you’ll get the answer.” So simple its amazing.

Me Wait, wait!! Windows Phones have had such a service since long.

Buddy Really? What’s it called?

Me Tellme.

Buddy Why should I tell you? You tell me, you’re the expert.

Me Noooo!! Its called Tellme [DAMN it] And.. and, Windows Phones have had that contact and calendar sync service since ages.

Buddy Oh yeah? What’s it called?

Me Its… its.. its not called anything. But its there, believe me. [Now that sounded foolish]

Buddy Whatever…

Me -  No really. It also has free Skydrive.

Buddy Oh cool, I like free apps. What’s Skydrive? An app for pilots?

2nd Buddy (looking up from his PSP) –  Sounds like some space game. Prolly you get to drive through the Milky Way avoiding meteors and stuff.

Me  - FML !!

Needless to say, I’m exasperated. And it dawns on me that just like an idea or concept, even a product is no good for the masses till it can be expressed in simple words which people can easily understand. And this is where Microsoft and Co have utterly failed. WP7 is the best smart phone OS around, by a good mile, but there are no ways to describe it.

This post has gotten too long, so I’ll save the rest for Part II. There I’ll try to suggest some remedies which my common-user-mind can think of. Your thoughts are welcome, of course.

Part 2 is here.

6 thoughts on “Windows Phone Marketing Pt 1 : At Wit’s End [Editorial]”

  1. Right when it gets good its over =(
    To be frank, it’s been something said ad nauseum. It is interesting that in both India and America, Windows has no way to market this product. It’s not as if the product is bad, quite the opposite. I actually have liked many things of Windows Phone. But the main issues still exist. Retweeting this, I think a few people would like to read it as well

    1. Thanks for the thumbs up. Part 2 coming up too. There I try to discuss some ways in which Microsoft could change the way they market features of this OS. Watch this space.

      The common user in every country is more or less the same, so is his knowledge, his likes, habits and concerns. But most of us in the blogging community don’t see that and consider them as informed and savvy as ourselves. Guys who run mega corporations probably do the same mistake and hence get distanced from reality. Lets hope they change for the better.

  2. You can’t teach technical solutions to non technical people. They don’t care about sky drive or live tiles or agents or people pages. They care about what their friends are using, what makes them feel good and what is fun and exciting.  WP7 is fun, exciting and can make people feel good and that is what has to be marketed to and microsoft does a good job there.    MS differentiated their product so they have their value ads but in the end a phone is a phone an an app is an app, it comes down to what attracts people to the platform to feel good about owning it. The technology behind it will always change. 

    All too often we expect people to adopt things because its technically better (the common line from android fans) or it has great messaging and integration (blackberry) or its so cool, everyone has one (iphone).  MS needs to find its niche.. and i don’t think its niche is the 1% of the world that loves the MS eco-system, its niche will be the mass appeal of people who also run Windows desktops, windows laptops and windows tablets..     WP7 is sort of a lose end of that ecosystem until windows 8 comes out and once windows 8 comes out, i think MS will be unstoppable.

    But, ms could have done a lot better.. i’m glad they’re funneling money through to Nokia.. nokia seems to understand non US markets much better than MS ever could, so i wouldn’t be surprised if nokia is their saving grace. and its just been a tad slower of a saving grace than we had hope, but it is there :)

    1. y know, I want to agree with that and in many respects I do, especially the niche that microsoft undoubtedly lacks. But the startling statistics is damning with Nokia from a European context. Nokia has over half the Windows Phone market share in Europe! But half of about 1-2% means that in combination Nokia wasn’t enough to save Windows Phone for a variety of different reasons. Many call it the Elop effect and have raised some extremely strong arguments that could and should be heavily considered. 
      On the other hand, what can Nokia do? The product is marketed but Windows has a huge identity crisis. Nokia can’t make a burning platform soar if the platform has no idea how to market itself. This is sadly where we are at

  3. Awesome post. Loved it. I’ve been a follower of Windows Phone since long as well but I know how to promote Windows Phone better than you. Almost all of my friends have a Windows Phone because of me. :)

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