Microsoft’s KIN Social Phone Makes Pitch Using Music and Facebook

Microsoft’s new social media phone, KIN, seems to be aiming at a decidedly younger consumer by emphasizing its social media value, as well as promoting free concerts for fans with cryptic clues via Facebook and Twitter.

The KIN Page launched in April and began promoting itself both with Facebook ads and at the Coachella music festival with a KIN Lounge where concert goers could recharge their phones, check them, make custom t-shirts, use a photo booth and enter to win VIP ticket upgrades.

But this isn’t the first time a Microsoft product has taken to Facebook for promotional purposes. Last month we wrote about Microsoft’s Section 7 Facebook Page, a partnership with ticket vendor Live nation, meant to promote the Windows 7 computer operating system via awarding fans discounts on tickets, merchandise, daily music deals, sweepstakes and other prizes.

The strategy seems to be on par with what we’ve seen other major brands doing the past few months: Combining their products or services with fun music events both on and off Facebook. This much was true with the Levi’s/Fader fort at Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival — the same festival which relied increasingly on Facebook events this year — and Odwalla’s Living Flavor Vending Machine at Coachella is another example of this music-themed promotion.

So what’s the deal?

Although Microsoft passed on talking to us for this story, the KIN web site tells visitors to visit the Facebook Page in order to attend the concert, “We’ll share details about the event, including the venue, a few hours before the show starts through our Facebook page.”

So far these “Spot Concerts” have already seen hundreds of people per show in Chicago, New York and San Francisco and the next one is planned for Atlanta, Ga., set to feature Big Boi (of the hip hop duo Outkast) on Thursday, May 27 from 8 p.m to 10:30 p.m.; other bands who played included The Black Keys and Passion Pit. The Atlanta venue has yet to be announced.

“The Spot” refers to a green dot on the KIN’s screen where users go to collect information from their social media networks. A big part of the KIN’s marketed appeal is that it’s set up specifically to allow users easy access to their social media selves; a tangent campaign features a young woman named Rosa (from the Facebook ads) who is traveling across the country to meet the people in her social network face-to-face.

Concerts in the series were promoted partly by Microsoft via social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but also by people hired by the company, band members and others, to drop clues about the events. Previously exact times and locations of the concerts have not been revealed until hours before the show, nonetheless, the concerts were at capacity.

And perhaps reaching people who will hang on every Facebook word from a brand is the point of the entire campaign. Who else but young people, living their lives increasingly in online worlds like Facebook, would be interested in a phone that designed specifically to accommodate those same social networks?

Events marketing is something we discuss in detail in the Inside Facebook Marketing Bible, but Microsoft’s campaign is interesting because it combines music, Facebook and the real world in a valuable way. At every step in this process Microsoft’s brand — and its product, KIN — are at the forefront of the user’s experience. Although one may be trying to get to a free Big Boi show in Atlanta, hanging on Microsoft/KIN’s every word is the only way to get there, and incidentally it’s something more easily done with a KIN phone (for example).

So far KIN only has about 191,000 fans on its Facebook Page and Microsoft is also promoting a sweepstakes for Facebook users around the phone, but the effect the Spot Concerts will have on the brand will be difficult to assess. Are Facebook fans more likely to buy a KIN than concert goers? Or is the idea not just to sell phones but create a fun image around Microsoft’s new phone? Especially given that Microsoft has been somewhat left off the social media bandwagon? Will the free concerts set a precedent for other companies?

It will be instructive to see the outcome for Microsoft’s KIN of the Spot Concerts, especially given the fact that major brands are tackling Facebook and music in increasingly creative ways.

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