Magazine article Marketing

Doing the Grand Tour

Magazine article Marketing

Doing the Grand Tour

Article excerpt

The recent launch of Windows '95 was very expensive, relentlessly high-profile and all-pervasive. But Julia Gosling says that Microsoft's 'Start it up' tour set news standards in planning, co-ordination and sheer stamina

Microsoft's launch of its Windows '95 operating system has been one of the most intensive, high-budget and high-profile campaigns of the year. Press, radio, poster and television hype bombarded the consumer and business markets throughout September.

The most focused marketing effort, however, was a regional roadshow that toured the country, presenting practical demonstrations of Microsoft Windows '95 and Microsoft Office '95 to a potential 10,500 key business customers.

The 'Start-it-up' tour, with its ubiquitous Rolling Stones theme song, visited 29 locations around the UK in just 30 days, holding four large events for around 1,000 attendees each and 25 smaller ones for 300 each. The target audience were Microsoft's important corporate clients - buyers from both medium and large-sized companies identified as having 500 or more PCs.

What was unusual about the roadshow was that Microsoft arranged every event in partnership with its local dealership - or "reseller" as they are known in the trade - and so had to deal with the event-management ideas of 20 different companies; 20 venues as diverse as the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham and Sandown Park Race Course; and a panel of speakers ranging from Sir John Harvey Jones to Bill Gates himself.

Chris Lewis, reseller group manager for Microsoft, is responsible for servicing the company's appointed resellers and was heavily involved in both the conception and logistics of the tour.

He explains the reasoning behind this new approach: "Microsoft has little direct contact with the final end-user of the software. We sell to customers through our resellers and in order to maximise interest, we felt that a joint approach would be the most powerful. The idea was to take away the mystery and to give attendees the information they needed to make the transition to Windows '95."

The costs of each event were divided equally between Microsoft and the hosting reseller. Microsoft provided the set and audio-visual equipment- which toured the country in specially-branded lorries - speakers, standard invitations, sample scripts for the hosts to use and assistance in promoting the tour. All the audio-visual work was contracted out to Show Presentation Services to maintain cohesion and branding. …

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