Top Dog Branding Strategies

apple-microsoftApple versus Microsoft. Creativity versus productivity. Exclusivity versus inclusivity. Tech giants Microsoft and Apple have had a longstanding “battle of the brands.” The two companies have been wildly successful within the tech industry, dominating in sales performance and brand superiority. Each placed within the top five of the world’s most valuable brands list curated by Forbes (2017). Constant debates over who is the top dog surround the industry leaders, and for a very long time, it seemed like the title belonged to Microsoft. However, on Forbes list, Apple placed first and Microsoft placed third. Apple’s sales reflect their superiority over Microsoft as well.

So, what has given Apple the edge over Microsoft? Their success can be summed up in two words: brand strategy. Apple’s brand is very clear. The company is centered around the ideals of innovation, quality, and customer experience. Apple communicates these ideals through emotional appeals.  All of Apple’s marketing tactics and focuses evoke certain emotions from consumers. Apple curated their brand so that they became associated with being a “status symbol” and thus attract a number of loyal customers who desire that status symbol (White, 2017). Apple feeds on this consumer behavior by effectively positions their brand as being premium. They price their products higher and focus on product quality for all product lines to meet the consumer expectations of premium. Apple’s products scream “exclusivity” and focus on specific lifestyles, like those with higher income and lavish taste. Perhaps by purchasing Apple products, consumers feel accepted and good about their social status. Apple has also positioned itself as the industry-standard for creatives (White, 2017). Their products support innovators, artists, and are made to perform to the expectations of these consumers and optimizing customer experience. Apple products may then evoke feelings of joy, productivity, creativity, amusement, and other positive feelings.

In contrast, Microsoft seems to value productivity and diversity.  However, Microsoft’s brand strategy is more ambiguous and is not as easy for consumers to relate to, especially emotionally. According to tech consultant Tim Bajarin (2014), “Microsoft centralizes its strategy around its belief that everyone needs tools for a wide range of productivity tasks regardless of who they are.” Microsoft has built their brand on the basis of everyone has the need to be productive, and created products that support productivity, such as two-in-one laptop/tablets. They emphasize inclusivity and are more moderately priced in comparison to Apple. Consequently, their pricing strategy sometimes causes consumers to view their products and brand as inferior, or of lesser quality. Microsoft also pursues “everyone.” Their market is not narrow enough, and thus many of Microsoft’s marketing campaigns appear generalized, bland, and for lack of better words, all over the place. Despite this stigma, Microsoft’s products and brand are still well-known for being reliable and productive.

Microsoft fails to appeal to the consumer, the consumer experience, and attract brand loyalists. In order for Microsoft to step up and surpass Apple, it is necessary for Microsoft to appeal to consumer emotions—perhaps they may want to play on the emotional value that their product brings. If they want to emphasize productivity, they can emphasize what being productive allows people to do: experience a full, free life. Microsoft gives consumers the chance to enjoy little joys, like spending time with family after a hard day at work. When it comes to addressing the consumer experience, Microsoft can focus on the aesthetics of their products and brand. They could benefit from a rebranding venture, which would allow the company to be seen as more modern and “productive” with sleeker, simplistic design. Finally, Microsoft can attract brand loyalists by practicing consistency. People do not like companies that have difficulty defining themselves and appear “wishy-washy.” By centralizing their ideals and narrowing down their target market, Microsoft can practice consistency and attract loyal followers. A company that is confident in itself and its abilities will naturally attract followers.

In my experience, I believe that consumers are more attracted to the Apple brand—simply for the status that comes with being an Apple customer. To be an Apple brand loyalist is to be a member of an accepted, prestigious group. Apple means guaranteed quality and style. However, I think different types of people are attracted to each brand. I personally value living within my means and choosing reliability over social status. I think that is why I tend to prefer Microsoft. I think with the proper marketing and brand strategy, Microsoft has the potential to revive itself and once again, become the top dog.

 

References

Bajarin, T. (4 Aug 2014). The Real Difference Between Microsoft and Apple. Retrieved from http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2461763,00.asp

Forbes (2017). The World’s Most Valuable Brands. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/powerful-brands/list/

White, S. (11 Apr 2017). Microsoft vs. Apple: Strategies change but the battle continues. Retreived from http://www.cio.com/article/3188853/it-industry/microsoft-vs-apple-strategies-change-but-the-battle-continues.html

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