Preston Gralla

Can a $1.5 billion marketing campaign convince people to buy Windows 8?

October 11, 2012 4:25 PM EDT

Forbes reports that Microsoft is prepared to unleash a massive marketing launch for Windows 8 of between $1.5 and $1.8 billion. That's more than either presidential candidate will spend. Will all that money be enough to make Windows 8 a hit?

In an article about Windows 8, Dave Enstein writes for Forbes:

Windows 8 will roll out with a marketing campaign estimated at $1.5 to $1.8 billion (yes, billion with a "B"). That’s the biggest product launch in the history of the industry; it dwarfs the $200 million Microsoft spent to market Windows 95.

In case you've forgotten or weren't around for the massive Windows 95 marketing campaign, that was the one where Microsoft did things such as pay to light the Empire State Building to match Windows 95's colors, hang a 328-foot Windows 95 banner from the CN Tower in Toronto, pay for 1.5 million free copies of The Times newspaper to be distributed in Great Britain, and create a "cyber sitcom" starring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry during the height of their fame. It also paid megabuck to license the Rolling Stones' song "Start Me Up."

Given the size of that ubiquitous campaign, it's hard to imagine what the Windows 8 campaign will be like. One thing you can know for sure though: When it launches, you may be able to run from it, but you won't be able to hide.

That campaign will be on top of campaigns launched by Windows 8 partners. Lenovo, for example, has said it plans the biggest marketing campaign it's ever launched for its upcoming Windows 8 devices, according to Advertising Age. Advertising Age was unable to find out the size of the budget, other than that it is in "the tens of millions."

Keep in mind, that's only one partner.

Can all that money ensure Windows 8's success? Well, it certainly can't hurt. But no marketing campaign on its own, even one as massive as the one heading our way, can ensure the success of a platform. A marketing campaign may jump-start sales, but over time, the product is what sells itself.

That means that even more important than the marketing campaign is what the initial buyers of Windows 8 devices say. Will they be confused by the duelling interfaces, or will they take to the tile-based interface once known as Metro. That, more than all the ads in the world, is what will determine Windows 8's success.