The Hail Mary

Paul Thurrott on the upcoming marketing efforts for Windows Phone: 

Microsoft has one goal and one goal only: Convince consumers to purchase millions of Windows Phone handsets in the first half of 2012. Doing so will requires a new set of phones…as well as stepping up engagement with tech enthusiasts, increasing retail-worker recommendation rates through training ands sales incentives, and other means.

So in order to convince millions of consumers to buy a Windows Phone, all Microsoft and Nokia must do is build an entirely new set of phones, increase engagement with enthusiasts, and pay retail workers ($10 to $15 per handset) to recommend their phones.

That’s a lot to bite off in a very short period of time. The easiest part is tossing cash at retail workers, but that still require extensive training on new products. When in doubt, sales people sell what they know, and currently, Windows Phone is a big unknown.

And then comes the the “Hail Mary”:

According to the internal Microsoft documentation I’ve viewed, the total cost of this marketing tsunami is in the neighborhood of $200 million, not $100 million. And again, that’s just for the United States. And on AT&T at least, Nokia is outspending Microsoft 2-to-1.

That’s well over $300 million on marketing efforts in the United States alone. Wow.

This is what happens when two once dominant but proud companies believe they can buy their way into a market. And for Nokia, doesn’t their very existence depend on the success of Windows Phone? It sure seems that way.

Customers didn’t stand outside Apple stores waiting to get their hands on the iPhone 4S because the TV ads convinced them to. No, they were there because Apple created the best smartphone, and millions of people had to have it.

Do you know why iPhone owners (including myself) won’t shut up about their phones? Because they can’t imagine not having one and want to share that sentiment with everyone.  The first Tivo I bought, I did the same thing. I stood in Best Buy and Circuit City selling the device to total strangers. It was (is) so much better than anything else. Remember the first time you turned on your new HDTV and you could actually see the puck fly across the ice or spiral on Manning’s ball?  I’ll bet the next time you were at a friends house, and he fired up his crappy standard def set, you told him what he was missing.

Consumers are smart. They can sense when a product is on life support. When was the last time someone approached you and said, “Check out this killer app on my new Windows Phone?” It’s never happened to me and I live less than 40 minutes from the Microsoft campus in Redmond.

Those who have shown me their Windows Phone are almost sheepish about it. One friend got a free Windows Phone, told me how great it was, but had purchased two iPhone 4Ss the next time I saw him. And he’s a Microsoft employee!

I can’t go to church without half a dozen iPhone owners telling me about some cool app they found. It’s genuine excitement, not some salesperson slogging through a script hoping to score a $10 spiff for recommending a phone they themselves probably don’t use.

No amount of money can generate that person to person excitement and connection.

Windows Phone must stand on its own. When dealing with a market entrenched with iPhones and Android handsets, Windows Phone must be demonstrably better. Almost as good isn’t enough. As good isn’t enough. Microsoft and Nokia must create a device so good that people will stand in a line overnight to get their hands on one. I have a hard time believing either company can pull that off.

Although I believe Microsoft Phone is a decent effort, it’s bound to fail. Tossing $300 million at the problem appears to be a last ditch effort from two companies who used to be relevant in mobile.

I predict this “Hail Mary” lands far short of the target.