From the July 17, 1995 issue of Smart

Microsoft Ramps Up for Retail

By David English

With Microsoft prepared to spend as much as $120 million to successfully launch Windows 95, you might think the company is going a bit overboard. Yet Microsoft argues that its Windows 95 marketing program is designed to move more than just a truck load of Windows 95 boxes. "Windows 95 is the center-piece—and the attracting magnet in many cases—for a whole raft of products from Microsoft and others that will make this a profitable time for our retailers," says Jeff Sanderson, Microsoft's general manager of strategic accounts. "Windows 95 is likely to be the reason that people walk into the store, and yet if they only buy Windows 95, then we have failed."

Microsoft has created three distinct phases for its Windows 95 marketing plan. The first phase, called the coming soon period, takes place between July 15 and August 23. During this period, consumers will be encouraged to stop by their retailers and reserve a copy of Windows 95 for August 24 delivery. This two-step ordering process gets customers into the store twice: once in July or August when things are less hectic, and again on August 24 to pick up their copies of Windows 95. "The key thing is that when they come into the store to see about Windows 95 that you get the reservation so that they'll come back into your store—and that they buy something while they're there," says Sanderson. "Maybe they need more memory. Maybe they need a CD-ROM drive—they've been meaning to get one, now is a good time." It's an opportunity to move a lot of additional merchandise. "Very few people buy a house without getting a whole host of things to go with it," explains Russ Stockdale, Microsoft's Windows 95 group product manager. "The same will be true of Windows 95."

The second phase, called the launch period, from August 24 to roughly the end of November, will see the bulk of the Microsoft advertising. The goal is to create a strong burst of enthusiasm for the product. Microsoft will be pushing Windows 95's ease-of-use features, as well as its own Windows applications that will be shipping during this period. "We're going to have a lot of cross-sale opportunities," says Sanderson

With the third phase, from the end of November to the end of January, called the holiday period, Microsoft expects to attract a different kind of consumer. Instead of customers coming into the store to buy Windows 95 for its own sake, they'll want to buy Windows 95 in order to run the new Windows 95 applications they've heard about. "As more games come out that are Windows 95 specific, such as Fury3, we'll start switching in that late November time frame to be pushing those," says Sanderson. "The television advertising will be much greater in terms of Encarta '96. The buying dynamic will be reversed, and the ads will reflect that. We're hoping that the offers by the various retailers will reflect that as well."

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