Daniel Eran Dilger
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Microsoft retail store gets odd viral marketing buzz

Prince McLean, AppleInsider

In a cost effective effort to draw attention to the new Mission Viejo Microsoft Store, a new viral ad campaign is gushing about fun retail employees who start spontaneously line dancing to the Black Eyed Peas.

Microsoft retail store gets odd viral marketing buzz
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Microsoft drew initial crowds at its retail store launch by giving away hundreds of dollars worth of software, free concert tickets, free merchandise with new PC purchases, and by making significant charitable donations. But to keep interest up during tough times, things are now on a budget.

BradSlavin.com, a domain which was once parked as a search engine optimization page, has transformed to become a randomly written blog of a 35 year old man who excitedly writes generic copy about unrelated topics under the title “Subtle Persuasions.”

The URL is just one of ten dozen domains run by Brad Slavin, who calls himself the “chief conversion officer” for a search engine optimization company that opened earlier this year. After two months of a few fake posts highlighting such professional milestones as the blogger’s first “Facebook FML,” Slavin posted a completely spontaneous dance routine that happened to bust out during his first visit to the Microsoft Store.

The visit wasn’t even intentional, ostensibly. Slavin wrote that he saw the store was open while walking through the mall. “I guess I have been disconnected from the [Windows] platform for quite a while because I did not even realize that Microsoft had store but I have heard so many great things about Windows 7 I just had to check it out. I half expected the store to be a bland uninspiring cheap knockoff of an Apple Store, but WOW was I in for a surprise.”

Something special in the air

Slavin wrote that “From the moment you first step through the door you can feel it, something is special, something is electric in the air. So many smiling faces, so many people engaged and fully committed to the experience and NO I am not just taking about the employees the nearly sixty shoppers in the store were having a riveting experience interacting with what is clearly the future.”

After pitching the two products Microsoft doesn’t sell in its retail stores, “Project Natal” and the $10,000 Surface PC, Slavin wrote that “Mid way through our visit the entire store broke out into song. Now I have seen this gimmick before at Coldstone Creamery and I know how they have been criticized in the media for it, but here it did not seem forced nor contrived, I would honestly say that this was the staff letting go, having some fun and not taking the brand all to [sic] seriously.”

Double bypass

Slavin added “I was absolutely floored by this experience, Microsoft has made a bold move to capture new market share. I ordered a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate edition – I have been a hard core Mac person for the past five years, I completely bypassed the Windows Vista experience but something is telling me that I am at a precipice looking directly into the future. Oh, and I just canceled my order for the 27inch iMac quad, I need a little time to think it over.”

Another thing Slavin should think over is writing ad copy that says he “completely bypassed the Windows Vista experience” while the rest of his blog, including a “related posts” link just below the text, says things like “Windows Vista has been in development for roughly five years and I have been actively involved as a beta tester for the last few months” and “Windows Vista Ultimate is the perfect solution for a mix of multimedia and productivity.”

Slavin’s stilted video astroturf was mocked by Engadget, which compared it to Microsoft’s “Rockin’ Our Sales” Vista SP1 promo in “creepiness” and the Windows 7 Party campaign in terms of being “overly controlled.”

Slavin linked back to Engadget, noting that “some of those comments are scathing,” but Slavin’s own blog is full of criticism from around the world, including a French post saying “Viral marketing FAIL: Oh My God. C’est pitiable.” Reader Jake simply wrote “how embarrassing for Microsoft.”

  • http://jonnytilney.com Jon T

    Brad Slavin ought to be banged up behind bars for a couple of years for such outrageous lies…

  • http://www.sistudio.net studiodave

    If I walked by any store and saw that going on inside I would walk no run as far away as I could. Spontaneous my A__

  • http://www.mactechpeople.com/ honestpuck

    Not to mention he managed to capture at least one person using the “spontaneous” dancing to do some shoplifting! There is a woman who takes a package off a table and shoves it in her bag!

  • Ludor

    I didn’t get it right away.

    I got as far as “just had to check it out” before I started to see the bottomless creepiness of this case. Seriously. This is worse than weird neighbor creepy. This is Cronenberg creepy.

    A real, live astroturfer! That is, if this is even a real person – just like that time with the “PC convert” ad stock photo. It’s true. They really have no taste. And this is how it smells.

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  • nini

    “I ordered a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate edition – I have been a hard core Mac person for the past five years, I completely bypassed the Windows Vista experience but something is telling me that I am at a precipice looking directly into the future. Oh, and I just canceled my order for the 27inch iMac quad”

    Really? They can’t even create virals with an ounce of belivability? Note to Microsoft: don’t use guys which deal in SEO snakeoil.

  • gus2000

    It’s OK for me, I have the “Symantec Anti-Viral-Marketing Adware Blocker” installed.

    It’s a good thing, too; I could never resist making impulsive buying decisions when confronted with great line dancing.

  • http://www.adviespraktijk.info Berend Schotanus

    Well, it looks like Microsoft is in the process of reinventing itself. As everybody knows invention goes with trial and error. There’s a lot of error out there…

  • http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/ The Mad Hatter

    It looks like Microsoft is committing Seppuku by numbers.

  • Imapolicecar

    Microsoft – Inspired by Ballmer. ’nuff said I think!

  • adamk359

    That whole “hard-core” Mac user thing sounds as legit as any Jehovah’s witness who comes to my door claiming to have Jewish relatives as if part of their script when approaching people like me who say we’re not interested because we’re Jewish. Very believable.

  • enzos

    @Mad.. there’s a special form of seppuku called kanshi (諫死, appropriately, “death of understanding”) that seems to fit line dancing Microsofties.. “The retainer would make one deep, horizontal cut into his stomach, then quickly bandage the wound. After this, the person would then appear before his lord, give a speech in which he announced the protest of the lord’s action, then reveal his mortal wound.”
    spilling their guts for Redmond?

  • http://blog.weaverling.org/ weave

    Brad’s website was thrown together so quickly he didn’t even have a chance to change the default picture rotation in the Thesis theme (which I wonder if he paid for).

  • http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/ The Mad Hatter

    @enzos,

    Thanks, hadn’t heard of that. It would be a special way of letting your boss know what you thought of him. And of course, you wouldn’t be the one cleaning up the mess…

  • gslusher

    There’s another version of the video on YouTube–same video, different music–The Benny Hill theme. Somehow, it’s more appropriate.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaNDl9T2-Wo

  • truthseeker

    I wanted to work at the Mission Viejo store… but it asked on the questionnaire whether I’m good at line dancing and if I don’t mind making a complete ass of myself in public while representing a parasitic, monopolistic overlord corporation. I had to check “no” for both. So I didn’t qualify. Bummer.