Blogpost – “As Apple becomes Microsoft – does Microsoft become cool?” #Apple #Microsoft #Brands

In a recent column in Forbes http://bit.ly/gFv9af, Elizabeth Woyke asks that particular  question “Is Microsoft suddenly cool?”. Her argument is that Microsoft is increasingly developing succesful products such as Windows Phone 7, Bing, Windows 7 and Kinect – all new and solid products that can challenge Apple products. In addition she argues that Apple’s iOS operating system (4.1) incorporates features that Microsoft has had for awhile (didn’t it use to be the other way around?) 

Woyke’s argument for a new found coolness is in other words primarily based on the rate of innovation of the two tech giants – a debate, which I will leave to more qualified minds. However, the question is equally interesting when viewed from  a branding and marketing perspective. For a long long time Apple has had a solid and succesful branding position as a challenger brand representing the anti-establishment – always in opposition to the giants of the industry. Who doesn’t remember the classic 1984 Macintosh commercial where it is basically spelled out, or the recent Apple vs. PC adverts. This position made Apple a coveted brand among the young, the tech geeks and the visually creative, who could identify themselves with the anti-establishment (coolness-factor) 

But as the whole world is rapidly becoming Apple’fied it is becoming increasingly difficult for Apple to uphold this  image.  Apple products and the brand itself has become highly mainstream – and mainstream (in the long run) does simply not equal cool. The behavior of Apple management in recent years also indicates a shift in the values and personality of the brand. For example, Apple’s slightly embarrasing harsh reaction following Ellen Degeneres satirical poke at the Iphone  http://engt.co/9wkeBQ, would never have happened 10 years ago. Furthermore, Apple is increasingly engaging in behavior often more likely to be associated with  a market leader. F.ex. by taking advantage of their monopoly on certain products in ways that some might deem distortive to competition. Makes you think of…. well, Microsoft. 

The question, however, remains whether Apple’s success and market leader-like behavior provides an opportunity for Microsoft in terms of coolness? Apple’s image might have entered a new path, but the overexposed hype and immense publicity associated with every single Apple product release, shows that it has yet to result in any significant coolness-loss.  

Still,  there is  no doubt in my mind that Apple’s new image path – if continued -could become its nemesis. As Apple’s image starts resembling the Orwellian world they once stood in opposition to,  a new “blue ocean” appears for a potential challenger in the industry. Whether, Microsoft can shift course, transform and obtain that position is highly questionable, due to the long history of the brand. Yet the aggresive and massive publicity of Apple, leaves room for Microsoft to maneuver under the radar, so who knows.

When it comes to coolness,  it is difficult to reach the top, but it is even more difficult to stay on top.

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2 responses to “Blogpost – “As Apple becomes Microsoft – does Microsoft become cool?” #Apple #Microsoft #Brands

  1. A well-written and interesting discussion.

    I do not believe Microsoft is on route to push Apple from the top, but I do believe that there may be a new cool camp where all the Apple tired consumers will settle. Not as a ‘the people’s front against Apple’ but more of a “I am cool even though I use a product from HP or Microsoft”.

    One might wonder if Microsoft can ever create something really cool again? And I mean hipster-ish/trendy cool, not what tech nerds says is cool…

    – Bill Gates had a tablet ready in 2001 http://tinyurl.com/3ymjkpw ~ how did that go?

    – Zune, the iPod killer ~ I think it’s safe to say that the Zune is no Chuck Norris.

    – PC vs. Mac by Microsoft http://tinyurl.com/28sg43g ~ as cool as Apple’s ads? I say no (even though they are good).

    There is always potential for a challenger brand to emerge and I believe this will most likely happen – the question is if it will be strong enough to dethrone Apple or ‘just’ create a coolness subgroup, a Blackberry for the private market.

    I admit, I love Apple products. I want an iPad for no other reason than to have one, so I may not be the right judge here. But I am also an openminded person and will always be rational in argumentation. Therefore, I agree that Apple have lost some momentum and there is room at the cool top, I just don’t see Microsoft taking that spot.

    Again, great article!

  2. Actually had this discussion at a recent party:) We were discussing how the product lock-in with iTunes and the hardware is ressembling what Microsoft has been accused of during the recent years concerning unfair competition. So as Apple has become mainstream maybe they will be perceived as a bigger threat and trying to steam roll competition.

    But I too agree that it is an interesting topic and the shift from challenger to perhaps leader is a difficult transistion. So thanks for sharing Tobias!

    And as for Tim’s comment on Gates’ tablet and the Zune mp3: One thing is the great idea, the other is timing:)

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