Microsoft India is taking an unusual step to advertise their latest piece of gaming hardware, the Kinect for the Xbox 360. Simply put, they’re not. The company is not running print ads or television spots for the new hardware, which hit the market in India in just November 2010, a week after the global release.
The reason for this step is that Microsoft feels that traditional advertising mediums will not help them reach their target audience effectively.
The focus, said Jaspreet Bindra, Regional Director for Entertainment and Devices, Microsoft India, lay in social networks and demonstrations. He elaborated, “The people who we are trying to reach, the people who will buy the Kinect from us, are all online, highly connected with the Internet. We are promoting the device through our social networks, and maintain a thriving online community, but unlike the launch of the Xbox in 2005, when we ran a sustained television campaign, today we feel that the community is already aware of the Xbox, is already enthusiastic, and we feel that we can reach them better without advertising.”
While Microsoft would not disclose the size of their online budget, part of the thought behind this decision might be that for a lot of buyers of technology products, the decision is often made when they are holding the device in their own hands, and Bindra recognises this too. He said, “It’s important to demo the device as much as possible. Demo, demo, demo is our motto for the Kinect, and we’re setting up as many units in malls, in retail chains where people can walk by, see the device, try it out for themselves and want to take it home with them.” And that is where the social aspect of the online campaign enters – since people are on Facebook and Twitter and on forums which discuss technology, they become familiar with the brand and the device, and then the conversion takes place when they use it themselves.
Sharan Tulsiani, Community Manager for Xbox 360 India, or as he is known online, Kungfu Pandit, too, felt that the brand was well established and that helping new products grow could be driven first by working within the existing community and then letting them build word of mouth awareness.
When the Xbox 360 launched in India in 2005, there was no existing community of gamers for Microsoft to tap into, so instead they launched a sustained ad campaign starring actor Akshay Kumar and cricketer Yuvraj Singh. Over the last five years though, Microsoft has helped create and interact with a large community of fans.
Tulsiani informed, “On Facebook alone, we have a community of almost 50,000 fans now. These are people that are passionate about the games, identify with our brand and use the page, and our Twitter page and even other paths to connect with us directly.”
A visit to the page shows that people talk about their favourite games, share information about deals, respond when asked about their preferences and interests and follow product release notes and other information, and comment freely.
But that’s not the only path. According to Tulsiani, “Aside from these obvious tactics, another thing we have done is to identify forums where people from India with these interests can be found. We want to have a presence here as well.” And they’re not trying to advertise under a false name either. Instead, on the popular Indian Video Gamer forums, there is a section called Ask Microsoft India, where forum members can discuss any problems, or raise queries directly with Microsoft, without having to follow them on Twitter or ‘fan’ them on Facebook.
What does this mean, for Microsoft specifically? That they have already experienced early growth through television advertising, and for this peripheral, they see no need to start a large ad campaign. If they launch a new product, which could grow beyond the existing base, they might easily choose to take the television route again.
For the rest of us though, the message is that while initial drives on television are effective for helping bring in as many people into the user-base as possible, committed management of followers and interactive community building are crucial to future growth. It’s not enough to build a webpage, or set up a Facebook page and post your updates there anymore. Interactivity is the primary factor – listening to the audience, and responding to them, and creating opportunities for them to talk to you.