Scroogled swag sells out as some buyers go for the gag

But there's no sign that the attack ad campaign has 'moved the needle,' say analysts

Microsoft upped the ante this week in its long-running Scroogled campaign as it started to sell merchandise, including mugs, hats and t-shirts, that took new digs at its rival Google.

Some of the gear had already sold out by Friday. The $8 mug, for example, emblazoned with a Google logo and the words "Keep calm while we steal your data," was marked "Out of stock," as was the $12 t-shirt with the same design. Other items, including a $15 baseball cap, a $26 hoodie and other t-shirts, showed a three- to four-week shipping delay.

But while the goods flew off the shelves of Microsoft's online store -- and the Redmond, Wash. company received an enormous amount of press on the swag sale -- analysts remained convinced that the campaign was futile, a waste of Microsoft's resources.

They also remain convinced that the hats and t-shirts and mugs were being purchased for reasons Microsoft had not intended.

"What I found the most fascinating is that the [merchandise] is essentially selling out," said Peter LaMotte, an analyst with Levick, a Washington, D.C.-based strategic communications consultancy, and a former advertising executive. "It's selling incredibly quickly, but people aren't doing it as support for Microsoft or what Microsoft is trying to accomplish, but as ironic or gag gifts."

LaMotte pointed to comments across the Web, including several cited by Forbes, where buyers said they were doing just that.

"Probably sold out because Googlers bought them all up," wrote one Google employee on his company's Google+ page after a colleague swatted at the sell-out of the mug with the comeback, "If only the Surface [was] this popular."

The reference to "Surface" was another jab at Microsoft; its Surface tablet line struggled to gain ground -- with the company taking a $900 million write-off to account for over-optimistic inventories of the Surface RT.

Others saw the merchandising as evidence Microsoft had it backwards, an opinion reinforced by the online commentary from some buyers that they considered the gear chic because it was ironic. "They've put the cart before the horse," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, in an interview. "You want advocates before merchandising, so I think this is too early."

Both LaMotte and Moorhead put the mugs, caps and t-shirts into context. For all the publicity the sales generated, neither believed Scroogled had done more than stir the pot.

"I don't think this is turning out to a successful campaign [because] it's not moving the needle," said LaMotte. "That Microsoft is spending all this money to continue a poorly-devised marketing campaign is curious. Google is still winning this argument."

Scroogled mug
Some of Microsoft's 'Scroogled' merchandise -- like this mug -- has sold out. But one analyst argued that those snapping up the swag were buying them as gag gifts, not to support the anti-Google advertising campaign. (Image: Microsoft.)
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