But how much longer can this go on for? Is Mac really still the elite brand for the in-group? Perhaps it is, there are still a relatively small number of cravat wearers who flourish their Mac in Starbucks, but the worm may be about to turn. Since iPod is now such a massive global brand with untold millions of units shipped around the world and I think around 80% market penetration in the MP3 player market and iphone trouncing all over the mobile handset market I think they need to be very careful with how they are perceived.
This year their I'm a Mac / I'm a PC campaign got a response from Microsoft. In a change from the standard approach of the market leader which is to ignore the competition in communications, the big blue monster came out with their own 'I'm a PC' campaign that tries to show PC users as the full range of creative, scientific, working and playing people that make up their users. Given even now, at their lowest point they still control over 92% of the home computer operating system market it shows they are taking the threat seriously.
People's perceptions of a brand health a lead indicator of future sales and onwards to customer satisfaction. Apple had been cutting into Microsoft's market share in tiny, but reliable bites and they need to deal with it if they want to stay at no. 1.The I'm a PC campaign that broke over the past year is a really fantastic piece of work making the corporate Ogre that Microsoft had become come across as human, self effacing and even funny. Perhaps even a little bit what Mac was like back in the day.
Compare this to where Apple are now with their perceived weak points - that they are expensive, value style over substance, a somewhat dodgy hardware reliability reputation and now to top it all off picking on the geeky, bespectacled, socially awkward kid, they are coming across a little bit like a bully. I just found that Charlie Brooker has said this a lot better than I can when the campaign first broke in the UK, drawng the analogy of the UK actors roles in Peep Show
"in which Mitchell plays a repressed, neurotic underdog, and Webb plays a selfish, self-regarding poseur. So when you see the ads, you think, "PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately lovable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers." In other words, it is a devastatingly accurate campaign."
Why am I bringing all this up now? Well Windows 7 has just been released. Amazingly, to some acclaim. It will be interesting to see how people react to Windows 7 now that Microsoft is acting with a bit more humanity. Their strength ironically is in their fallibility, if they can successfully show that they care about the people who use their products and are doing their best then that would likely be a powerful antidote to Mac's supercilious elitism. Aspirational is probably a losing tack in tough times anyway and as a typically British lover of the underdog, I hope Microsoft sticks it to them. Never thought I'd say that.