In 1995 Microsoft decided to replace its operating system DOS with Windows 95. The Windows OS was the successor of much hated Windows 3.0 and Windows 3.1. Actually Windows 3.0 was supposed to be the last Windows version before Windows 95 was supposed to be launched. But the combined effects of Delay in Launch of Windows 95 (code named Memphis) and the solid amount of bugs in Windows 3.0 forced Microsoft to launch Windows 3.1 (later a minor upgrade 3.11).
Windows 95 had minimum system requirements of 486 processor and 8 MB RAM, also 640 MB HDD (amusing that was max available that time just 10 yrs back!), which was on the higher end. It promised an exciting change from the drab interface of DOS and as usual was hyped heavily by Microsoft.
Now this campaign had certain unique features. For the first time a software was being so heavily hyped and marketed so heavily. Microsoft had realized computers were no longer the dominion of geeks and general public had to be sucked in to increase the market. For the launch of Memphis in New York, Microsoft did not buy a cent of ad space in newspapers (much to despair of newspapermen), no TV time and not even a hoarding. Yet the launch was extensively covered. What Microsoft did was to hire the Empire State Building and paint it Read Blue and Black (with light at night of course!). Also to create the hype, Windows 95 was launched on Midnight. Stores selling Windows 95 were instructed to be open at 12 so that people could flock in. All these events are really eye catching and caught media’s imagination.
Across the Atlantic, the Gimmick of painting a landmark had been done (The Ministry Of Sound, a Disco in London, had had its logo displayed on the Houses of Parliament). Londoners next day only saw one headline on page 1 in a daily which read “Windows 95 launched”. What Microsoft had done was that they had made a deal with the newspaper to sell (actually distribute) the paper for free. Again very non conventional but very eye catching and something media loves to talk about.
The downside of the campaign was a major one. Never again Microsoft was able to market a new product on a very large scale. Everything which was done for Windows 95 was in the superlative. Anything after that would be a follow up on that campaign. This is disastrous for any company. Now at every launch every one expects Microsoft to do something bigger and better but Microsoft itself goes for (relatively speaking, otherwise also the launches are really big for a software whose first version is full of bugs!!) a low key launch because they also they can’t match the Windows 95 Launch.