Two days from now, Black Friday officially kicks off the holiday buying season — although some retailers are off to an early start. I’ve been wondering; What about Windows Phone? I recall how last holiday sales season, Verizon cranked up Droid sales with two-for-one deals. Yesterday, I got e-mail from AT&T announcing four days of Windows Phone buy one get one free, or what Stephen Baker, NPD’s vice president of industry analysis, calls BOGO. Can the offer, presumably others coming later in the holiday season and Microsoft’s aggressive Windows Phone 7 advertising campaign jumpstart sales? I refer to jumpstart in context of new software and devices, like Verizon Droids were last year.
BOGOs, whether the one for free or another for half price, are common during the holidays, along with rebates and other discount incentives. AT&T’s promotion starts on Friday and applies to all three Windows Phone 7 handsets it carries: HTC Surround, LG Quantum and Samsung Focus. There also is a free accessory offer. Deal takers must agree to a new two-year contract.
“I think the BOGO has nothing to do with sales to date or specifically with Black Friday,” Baker said. “It is a good time to sell stuff and AT&T is taking advantage of it. Phones have pretty hefty deals even beyond the subsidy around price cuts, like the [BlackBerry] Torch, or BOGOs that Verizon has used very effectively. It has high visbility right now with the dollars Microsoft is throwing at it — and that is a good time for AT&T to try to pump up the sales a bit, and drive a bit of traffic into the stores.”
Skydiving for Sales
How effective is that Microsoft advertising? I’ve got nothing quantitative but something anecdotal to share. In early October, I expressed just how much I like Microsoft’s Windows Phone marketing campaign, which is clever, funny, memorable and oh-so yeah. It’s lifestyle marketing done right, challenging people to step away from their phones and get back to living. My artist wife is simply non-tech. She doesn’t give a hoot for gadgets, and when I show her techie TV commercials she yawns and walks away. But, yesterday, my wife got all hyper about the Windows Phone commercial embedded above. She called me over to watch the TV spot, which she played three times. “I love it!” she exclaimed. She since has posted the video to Facebook.
The Windows Phone skydiving commercial is exceptional. Two guys jump out of an airplane, and both are taking photos with their phones. Time means something when you’re falling to earth. The guy with the Windows phone says he can shoot in seconds so he can get to pulling his parachute’s cord. “I just point, shoot and post to Facebook.” Meanwhile his buddy fumbles with his phone. Good advertising is about showing customer benefits. There are two obvious ones here, not that most Windows Phone users would be in the skydiving situation: Picture taking and posting speed and getting back to what’s important.
I asked Baker about the commercials. “I like them fine. I wish they were a bit more product focused, but that is just an old retail guy talking.”
Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 campaign really does hit the point, which was an undercurrent to this week’s Fox drama “Lie to Me.” Too many people are too obsessed with their phones. In the opening sequence, teenager Emily Lightman, nearly runs down an Alzheimer’s victim while texting and driving (there is impact). At the show’s close, parent and main character Cal Lightman gives his daughter a choice: The car or the phone for a month. She chooses the phone and bumming rides.
Can Microsoft save us from our phones or help people to use them better — and in process pump up Windows Phone 7 handset sales? I’m a huge believer in the power of effective marketing, and Microsoft is going further by rightly asking who’s running your life? You, or your cell phone?
Something else, and here comes one of my rare mea culpas. I’ve been critical of Microsoft’s mobile Office push. I mean, frak, who really needs to do documents on their cell phones? Yes, of course, some business users. But the majority? I doubt it. Consumers? Surely not many. But I had a stunning change of perspective two days ago. I met a high school student who is writing a novel on an Android smartphone. The high schooler has finished eight chapters already. I asked why? The student gave three reasons:
- The teen is more accustomed to typing on the cell phone because of texting. “I’m too lazy to use a computer keyboard.”
- “My phone is with me everywhere,” meaning whenever the inspiration to write comes.
- “I couldn’t have done this if there wasn’t an app in the Android store.”
I immediately wondered: “What about Office?” The high schooler uses a Verizon Android phone. What if the teen had Windows Phone on AT&T, would writing be even easier using mobile Office? I don’t have an answer for that, but please feel free to offer yours in comments. By the way, my fail; I should have told the student about Android’s voice-to-text feature, which could make writing on the go even easier. The point: Younger Millennials — Generation Y, if you prefer — having different habits than older users. For this student, the cell phone is primary writing device, not the PC.
There remains the question about Windows Phone 7 smartphone holiday sales. Will Santa stuff his sack with Windows Phones this holiday, helping Microsoft and its partners snatch market share from Android, BlackBerry and iPhone? Please answer the question in comments.
One more thing: Starting with this post, I will throttle back Betanews posting until January; I’ll continue blogging but at much slower pace. I’m starting a book writing project and want to put aside the daily grind, which includes monitoring RSS feeds and Twitter. I’ve allotted six weeks to the first draft; the book isn’t fiction and has nothing to do with technology.