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Jul 24, 2010 | Comments

A few weeks ago, Microsoft halted production of the Kin, their new smart-phone focused on social networking. 6 weeks after launch, Microsoft sold less than 10,000 Kin phones.

Why the poor sales? The pricing? The features? It’s widely debated.

My biggest surprise: failure in light of Kin’s marketing. Bloggers hailed the social media campaign as Microsoft’s magnum opus. 200K Facebook fans. 600K views on YouTube. A multi-city underground concert tour. Audience engagement (e.g., the sacred social media “dialogue”). Every social media box checked and obliterated. All this and the Kin failed to find customers.

Even the video is brilliant (is Facebook+hipsters ever a bad idea?). Featuring a girl’s exploration of her Facebook friends, thousands of people followed her journey on Facebook and Kin’s site, garnering enough attention to make any marketer salivate. Hell–even I was enchanted to watch a few episodes.

Reportedly, Microsoft spent “upwards of a billion dollars to bring the Kin market (if you count the $700 million Danger acquisition plus further R& D cost).” That’s $1,000,000,000 costs plus ~$5,000 sales = sad Steve Balmer.

Rock-star “Old Spice Man” had a similar fate. The Internet meme, reportedly, has not significantly impacted sales. Goals aside, Old Spice destroyed every digital marketing metric but didn’t tip the revenue scales.

The ROI and nuances of each campaign could be debated at length. And product launches fail all the time.

But for me, I’m reflecting on expectations. That is, Kin’s campaign is applauded an A+ by pressing the right digital buttons. The agency, Exposure, should very well have rejoiced at their success–at least by how we define digital success in fans, followers, views, and visits.

Something to think about: it’s easy to circle back through the Kin’s marketing and find the flaws. But like buying a used car, the trick is to know how to avoid a lemon beforehand. Could any marketer be that good? Am I an idealist?

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