And by “care package,” I mean “bomb.”

Beep, beep, beep... It's Hotmail! Image courtesy of Flickr user Cindy Seigle. Licensed under CC 2.0 BY-NC-SA.

Today Microsoft sent me a care package. It included: a pedometer, a thumb drive, a cork screw, bubble wrap, a book on origami, and an alarm clock. With the alarm going off.

You guys, Mail Services thought I had received a bomb.

Now, can you guess what product Microsoft was trying to advertise with this assortment of items? If you guessed the launch of the new Hotmail, you’re right. In addition, you must work for Microsoft’s marketing department, because there is no one else on Earth who could make that connection. It was a terrible package. For one,  the package was a giant waste of resources, shipping fuel, and manufacturing costs. The only part of it that I kept was the thumb drive–the envelope-shaped box, the corkscrew, the pedometer, the origami book, the alarm clock, and the bubble wrap all went to people sitting with me at lunch. Secondly, it was poorly-targeted. There is no demographic that likes all those things, and though they were all loosely tied to the launch (you can “hit the snooze button” because Hotmail is so fast, and the like), they were mostly confusing. I didn’t know what the box was for, and I had been sent an email about the launch three days ago with no mention of the box in it.

But the thing that set me off, aside from the general poor planning and execution of the campaign, was the god-damn alarm clock. Who in their right mind sends a beeping package through the mail? If nothing else, it was annoying the mail services employees, who are all lovely people and who are not paid to listen to Microsoft’s bad marketing go off all morning. But more than that, sending something that says “sketchy device! Maybe a bomb!” through the mail is a terrible idea.

Here’s how the non-shitty marketing campaign would have gone down. Microsoft would have sent me an email announcing the launch. Instead of a dry list of oddly-formatted promo text, they would have included a video embedded in the email. They would have explained that they’re trying not to give us more stuff we don’t need in our lives–just like Hotmail cuts the crap you don’t need from your inbox. They would have talked about how, because they saved that money, they want us to take control of it. They would have given us a choice to toss $20 to various philanthropic projects sponsored by the Gates foundation.

Then, once I’d clicked and made my decision, the video would have continued with demos showing just how awesome the software is. There would have been real, identifiable people my age using the software. They would have blasted my preconceptions of Hotmail out of the water. They would have highlighted the differences between Hotmail and Gmail, because I am a college student, and they know that, and when they’re talking to tech-savvy college kids that’s what they’re dealing with. Instead of coming away thinking of the redesign as a sad attempt to keep up with Gmail, I would have come away thinking about what Hotmail does uniquely well. As it stands, I’ll have the find that out on my own because the things highlighted in the few promo materials I recieved with the care package were things that, for the most part, Gmail has been doing for years.

As it stands, I’m not going to switch to Hotmail. I’ll review it, certainly, and try to see what it does well. The reviews I’ve already seen have been tepidly positive. But there is a stigma in the job market–especially for people who are in tech professions, which is who they’re sending this promo material to. Hotmail looks sloppy and behind the curve. It will until Microsoft gives me a compelling reason why Hotmail is going to give me a leg up over Gmail. There are things Gmail doesn’t do well, and I need to know how Hotmail will do those better.

The way I find that out is not with an alarm clock.

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