Marketing Kinect: What would Don Draper do?


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If you haven’t heard about Microsoft’s Kinect by now, you are among a blissful breed of endangered species who have been unaffected by the company’s estimated $500-million marketing blitzkrieg.

For those rare unawares, Kinect is a wireless game controller for Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Slated to hit thousands of stores on Thursday, the $150 attachment lets players control the Xbox 360 with voice commands or hand and body gestures. Equipped with cameras, microphones and other sensors, the device can also recognize individual faces.


Those who have heard of Kinect and can’t shake the meme out of their heads can blame Rob Matthews. As the general manager in charge of marketing for the Kinect, Matthews is the wizard behind the Microsoft curtains in Redmond, Wash., pulling the levers and knobs.

Some astute observers out there may have experienced a sense of deja vu with this campaign and its tie-ins with Macy’s stores, Real Simple magazine, Burger King and Nickelodeon.

Wii know why. Matthews worked at Nintendo for eight years prior to joining Microsoft. Among his duties there: consumer marketing for the Wii game console. There, he coordinated the marketing of the Wii’s 2006 launch with People magazine, 7-Eleven stores and Nickelodeon. Advertising Age magazine named Matthews ‘Marketer of the Year’ in 2007 for his efforts.

So is Matthews just rinsing and repeating what he did at Nintendo? In an interview with The Times, the 40-year-old executive insists he’s breaking new ground. Here’s an excerpt of the conversation:

Q: What’s your overall approach for the campaign?

At the end of the day, the marketing campaign is designed to do three things: ignite consumer passion by letting consumers experience the product first-hand; empower advocacy by giving them ways to share their experience; and amplify that passion through partnerships.


Q: Sweet. But what does that mean?

What we’ve been doing is give consumers an opportunity to experience it through our mobile tour. We’ve been at fairs, festivals, malls since the end of July letting people try Kinect for themselves.

Q: OK, that’s about a couple thousand folks. You need millions of people to make this a hit.

Right. So we created, a website where you can share videos of yourself playing or watch other people playing. We also created a hub on Facebook called Kinect Central, a Hulu channel and a YouTube channel with all the videos we created.

Q: So that’s the sharing and amplifying parts. How’s this different from what you did with the Wii campaign?

In terms of size and scope, this is far beyond anything I’ve ever done. We’re taking things to a whole new level. With Kinect, there’s no gadgets, no gizmos. It’s really just about you. Let’s get the marketing out of the way and let the genuine experience come though.

Q: That’s interesting. You’re marketing a product that people aren’t supposed to notice is there at all. When this is over, what will the business school case study conclude about this launch?

It’s a case study of modern-day marketing. It starts with a product that is unlike anything else. It’s always easier to market a product that is special. The other thing is to understand how our notion of community is changing. Everything we do is about letting consumers experience Kinect, letting them talk about it and then shining a spotlight on what they have to say. That’s what marketing is evolving into. It’s about igniting, empowering and amplifying.

-- Alex Pham

Upper photo: Xbox 360 and Kinect controller.

Lower photo: Rob Matthews.