Microsoft’s Positioning vs. Apple: Brand Champ or Chump?

Some of you may already be aware of the latest mini drama between rivals Apple and Microsoft.

The controversy stems from Microsoft’s “Laptop Hunters” ads, which seek to drive home a single idea: that a PC is cheaper than a Mac.

A PC Costs Less… Duh!
I already knew that… I think most of us knew that!

The “laptop hunters” campaign is one in which Microsoft gives consumers $1,000 to buy a laptop. With Macs starting at well over $1,000, the result is predictable: they buy a PC every time and even have some cash left over.

Ads Get Under Apple’s Skin?
Microsoft believes the ads are having an impact. So much so, in fact, that the company’s chief operating officer seemed to wet his pants with joy upon learning that Apple’s legal eagles had asked Microsoft to stop running the spots. He was so happy about the development that he shared it publicly as evidence the campaign is working.

Oh no, COO!
But there’s more to the story. Seems as if Apple simply asked Microsoft to stop running spots that had not been changed to reflect accurate pricing on Mac Books.

To me, Apple’s request is fair and reasonable. The wrong information is misleading and Microsoft should amend the spots before running them. Apple, from what I can decipher, did not ask its rival to terminate the overall campaign.

Sounds like over exuberance on the part of Microsoft’s COO. Certainly divulging Apple’s request without a full understanding of the facts is a chump move.

Microsoft’s Best-Price Rut
That Microsoft’s COO would embrace this story speaks to the depth of the company’s troubled position vs. Apple.

I can’t say it any better than John Dvorak in his piece in The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch: “Microsoft is stuck in the best-price rut.” See his full commentary.

As he rightly points out, Microsoft’s only focus is the low price of Windows-based computers over Mac Books. Price is the only benefit, the only differentiator. Microsoft doesn’t highlight any of the Mac Books’ limitations or downsides.

Meanwhile, Dvorak notes: “Apple has no qualms about blasting the vulnerability of the PC to viruses and other weaknesses.”

His advice to Microsoft: “… add some real personality and stick it to Apple with some genuine commentary about the flaws nobody talks about. The public can see the ‘best price’ part of the equation for themselves.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Dvorak. Microsoft’s best-price emphasis is largely ineffective in competing with Apple.

That’s because consumers who would be in the market for a Mac Book aren’t focused on price; they’re focused on value and quality. And that’s exactly what Apple addresses in its “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” spots.

Anyone who is only interested in the lowest cost will never buy a Mac Book. Most of us understand that quality costs more. In a battle of the brands, I’d rather be in the quality/value spot, each and every time.

Microsoft Earns Brand Chump Title
To me, Microsoft has earned the brand chump designation. Their “Laptop Hunters” campaign is flawed, and their excitement over Apple’s request that inaccurate ads be pulled is misguided.

Agree or Disagree? Sound Off
Do you agree? Should Microsoft wear the Brand Chump hat or do you see something I don’t?

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3 responses to “Microsoft’s Positioning vs. Apple: Brand Champ or Chump?

  1. You are right on point: When a brand competes only on price, it turns its products into nothing more than commodities. Microsoft is, through its campaigns, conditioning consumers to see less value in PCs. And when consumers see less value, brands have to constantly drop their prices even more just to maintain the “lowest-price-mentality” consumer.

    Competing on price alone is never a good move –even in recessionary times. I own two PCs (laptop and desktop). I have never owned an Apple. But the next time I am in the market for a computer, I’m going with an Apple…mostly because the Microsoft commercials have convinced me that PCs have nothing to offer; the only thing they can say about their products is “we cost less.” When a company keeps cutting prices, they have to make it up somewhere else, and that “somewhere else” is usually an inferior product.

  2. As a big box retail merchandising specialist – I would point out that Microsoft is seizing the opportunity to take advantage of the price shopping mentality of computer purchasers. Price is king right now and Apple can’t compete……I base this on the hundreds of conversations I have had with purchasers at big box retailers over the last month.

  3. I think that Microsoft in this ads is not working only with price. I saw two of its ads and they were focus in something more intelligent and complex than that. They tell, that you don’t need to spend more to do what you want to do with a computer, that you have hundreds of different hardware options and finally that to be cool you don’t need to be trendy, you can be cool for yourself.

    Daniel Donet

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