Why nobody is buying Vista

The Washington Post reports that few people are queuing up to buy Microsoft's Windows Vista. The New York Times concurs, suggesting that Vista has been greeted with "limited fanfare." Both newspapers agree that early adopters, who have historically rushed out like lemmings to buy newly released Microsoft operating systems, aren't showing much interest in acquiring Vista. Why?

Mac ultras will trot out all the conventional anti Microsoft platitudes about ubiquitous bugs, exorbitant pricing, poor security , release delays etc. But there's a simpler, more interesting reason for Vista's lacklustre launch. The problem is that it has been horribly marketed.

D_1 Vista is not a Web 2.0 product, but it has been marketed using Web 2.0 logic and tactics. The New York Times reports today about Microsoft's Vista campaign. Instead of using a traditional celebrity to market the product (as they did  when using Jay Leno to market the release of Windows 95), Microsoft has chosen to use the offbeat comedian Demetri Martin. The boyish, eternally confused Martin is a Web 2.0 sort of guy. A with "80,000 friends" on MySpace, he is the quintessence of the understated, ironic dude whose life is a futile existential quest for meaning. Using San Francisco based ad agency Mekanism, Microsoft "sponsored" a series of meandering web episodes starring Martin on Clearification.com. Microsoft chose Martin because he isn't a household name. As Tommy Means, co-founder of Mekanism, explained about the key 18-30 demographic Microsoft is trying to reach:

“This audience is highly influential. The general population take their cues from what the online buzz is discovering.”

Oh dear. The web 2.0 idea of the "influential audience" rears its ugly head again. That's obviously the (false) logic behind Microsoft's softly softly approach to marketing Vista. As Brian Marr, Microsoft group marketing manager for Windows Vista, told the Times:

“We wanted something very special for this audience; something very low key. This is an audience that is very cautious about marketing.”

What Microsoft got is "low key" alright. And special. Very special. The Clearification webisodes tell us nothing about the value of the Vista operating system. Instead, what Mekanism/Microsoft have tried to do is create buzz in the blogosphere by launching e-mail campaigns around the release of each new Demetri Martin webisode. It's just another remix of Lonelygirl15.

But there is (fortunately) only one Lonelygirl15 and the Clearification strategy doesn't work. Just as Martin is trying to be cool by not being cool, so Microsoft is trying to sell by not selling. This is advertising by not advertising -- the Web 2.0 style of (not) doing business.

And consumers have responded by buying Vista by not buying Vista.