• April 2011

Microsoft Does It — You Can Too!

By Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd, Principal
Behind the Scenes Events

Microsoft rules. I am telling you the truth, because I had the opportunity to witness firsthand one of Microsoft’s launches where they pitched several new product lines to the media.

At the 2010 New York auto show, Ford announced a partnership with Microsoft to provide the next generation of control technology for electric cars.

Clearly, an enormous amount of time and money had been invested to make the entire day a splashy and entertaining affair, as they courted the bloggers, tech writers, and gadget geeks. But then, this is Microsoft—the largest company in the world.

Stating the obvious

While I have seen hundreds of events, quite honestly, I was actually blown away by this grand affair.

Why? Because the enormous 55,000-square-foot venue allowed ample room for everything from a caffeine-infused guest lounge and Internet cafe, to a showcase theater featuring an impressive line-up of Microsoft executives. There was even space for an extensive exhibit floor full of hands-on electronics.

What Microsoft did so well that day was showcase just how well they know their target audience.

Here’s how:

  • Events like these are an exceptional example of Experiential Events at their best. They allow the target audience an in-context opportunity to experience the brand. The attendees didn’t want to sit through endless talk-at-you keynotes and receive a hundred take-home brochures. The techies in attendance wanted to experience the products — touch them, interact with them, and learn for themselves. And that’s exactly what they allowed them to do.
  • I watched as Microsoft execs rolled up their sleeves. Not only did these millionaires play bass alongside a drumstick-toting blogger for an impromptu Beatles Rock Band set on Xbox 360, they piped the makeshift jam throughout the entire venue. Want to sell a rock-and-roll infused video game? Allow your potential audience to rock out for themselves.

  • Other guests were seen kicking up their feet on leather recliners, donning the requisite headset, and launching into a game of Halo. Did I mention the experiential set-ups for Smartphones and MP3 players? Talk about engaging the crowd.
  • Choreographing serendipity. It’s not by accident that Microsoft organizes many an event this way. Research has confirmed that people who have been engaged by an immersive experience take action, talk to others, and generate positive word-of-mouth, indicating that experiential events can offer distinct advantages over traditional marketing tactics.

How can you get in on the hyper-sophisticated experiential fun?

1. Understand that experiential events are brand building. As such, there must be an extensive commitment of time and resources to identify the target audience and understand what stimulates them. In the case of the Microsoft launch, the guest list was relatively small, but each guest was handpicked for a specific purpose.

2. Organizers should fully understand the product, vision, and goals of the brand. To fully create an experience for all of the senses, focus on touch, sound, visuals. Seek to play to the emotions. Microsoft’s comfortable living-room set-up and surround-sound acoustics allowed for an at-home experience. Not to mention the bowl of Cheetos on the coffee table that truly made guests feel at home.

3. The devil is always in the details. Experiential events are well outside the norm of a traditional event set-up, so be sure to think through everything. Every detail should be considered and scrutinized so the entire experience is seamless, and every opportunity to extend the brand is taken advantage of.

4. As with any business endeavor, outcomes should be measurable. In this case, Microsoft was easily able to research the impact of the experience through the articles written, blog posts, and media inquiries for follow-up information after the event.

5. Remember: Experiential events are a powerful activation tool in building a brand, allowing potential buyers an intimate connection in a high-impact environment, a tool that has shown marked positive results on the bottom line. So go ahead. Make your guests rock!

Photos courtesy of Microsoft.

About Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd

Ranked one of the top meeting and event planners in Washington, DC, for 2009 and 2010 by the Washington Business Journal, Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd’s Behind the Scenes Events, opened its doors in July 2008. Her goal is to offer organizations and individuals access to affordable, full-service meeting and event-planning solutions.

Ladd has worked in the DC meeting and event industry for more than a decade, starting her career in 1999 at the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

Her extensive association and nonprofit planning skills are accented by experience working in the social and entertainment markets. Positions with the Walt Disney Companies and as a freelance wedding and special-event coordinator have provided opportunities with A-list celebrity clients and top-ranking government officials.

For more information, visit Behind the Scenes Events.