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Apple responds to Microsoft ads with… more of the same?

I can’t decide whether Apple’s response to Microsoft’s Laptop Hunter series of ads is smart marketing, or an indication that the folks in Cupertino don’t know how to respond to the head shots that Microsoft is dishing out.

Smart marketing says if you have a winning message, stay on message.  That’s what Apple has done.  They’ve acknowledged that PC’s are cheap, but then said Mac’s work “without viruses, crashes, or headaches”.  A minor tweak but basically the same message as they’ve used in the past.

There are two problems with their strategy.

The first problem is that they’ve conceded Microsoft’s point that Mac’s are much more expensive.  I don’t think they have much option on this.  Even if they make the argument, as some have, that a similarly equipped PC costs a similar amount to a Mac, they’re shooting themselves in the foot.  The Mac brand is about being way more than a PC in every way – from experience to industrial design and coolness.  Comparing a Mac to a similar PC would play right into Microsoft’s hands.

The second problem is they’re telling a white lie.  When Windows Vista first shipped, the headaches and crashes message was dead on.  Today it’s a pretty darn stable OS, and Windows 7 will ship the same way.

What about viruses?  Maybe you remember Jim Allchin claiming that Windows Vista with Address Space Layout Randomization would obviate the need for antivirus?  It certainly caused a flurry at the time, and even I mocked him for saying it.  But you know, a funny thing happened last fall.  My anti-virus subscription ran out, and I never renewed.  I ran Vista locked down, with no antivirus (after rebuilds I didn’t reinstall) and escalations to administration mode only to install software I was comfortable with on my PC, my wife’s PC, and my laptop.  It was exactly what Allchin suggested.  It wasn’t until April of this year that I bought a new license for Norton Internet Security.  When I ran the initial scan all the PCs came up clean — no viruses, no trojans, no malware of any kind. Jim Allchin might have been right!

To me, it looks like Apple’s messaging is getting a little long in the tooth.  I can’t help think that a more meaningful response from Cupertino would be to invest in delivering a lower cost Mac instead of shovelling advertising dollars at the airwaves.  Ironic isn’t it?

What are your thoughts?

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • arlo bundsen May 13, 2009, 8:26 am

    I find the microsoft commercial also contain "a white lie": all the hunters are choosing gigantic, 17" laptops that weigh twice as much as most macbooks. There are so many design differences between the PCs being chosen and the macbook they are comparing to that the comparison is irrelevant.

    Instead, they should ask the hunter to buy a 13" laptop PC with similar specifications to the 13" macbooks (which can go for ~$1200). In this case the macbook arguably wins hands-down, especially when you factor in stability, ease-of-use, default programs included, looks, weight…. almost all specifications.

    The bottom line is that they should be comparing similar laptops with similar specifications.

  • Mitch Brisebois May 13, 2009, 9:10 am

    I totally agree with you that Apple should not have taken Microsoft's bait on this. Lauren got what she deserved, and she'll be paying the chiropractor bills later in life! Let's leave the poor misguided girl alone.

    Microsoft should extend its campaign and do a price comparison with Linux (at least the OSs run on identical hardware.) All we'd see is that outrageous Microsoft "tax"!

  • Alec May 14, 2009, 7:01 pm

    Arlo, Mitch — thanks for the comments. Aside from whether you believe the Mac's to be superior to the PC's (which is a topic best left to the after dinner drinks along with two other favorite debates — religion and politics) how do you think Apple should respond to the Laptop Hunter ad campaign? Should they respond at all?

  • Mitch Brisebois May 15, 2009, 4:38 am

    Apple is very good at marketing game changers. The original iPod ads were brilliant, as are current iPhone and Touch ads. As fun as they are, I'd question whether the Mac/PC ads were very good at conversion. Everyone I know who ADORES them are PC folks… are they're not about to switch.

    Is it possible that Apple is spending a pile of money just to entertain MS users?

    As for Microsoft, their enterprise ads are excellent – in particular the current SQL and Server series. The XBox group has been equally adept! The consumer marketing group should all be fired! Vista, Zune, Lauren…

    Now would be a great time for Microsoft to roll out a "feel great" campaign in anticipation of Windows 7. No hardware costs. No Apple comparison. Just Microsoft.

    As for Apple, they should stick with reinventing consumer products and resist the urge for defensive marketing. (imho) :)

  • Stephan Monette May 19, 2009, 11:37 pm


    But Apple is the one that started the whole thing with their PC and Mac actors!

    I guess Microsoft is trying to find a way to get back to Apple.

    I find both ads very poor. I hate it when a vendor compares his product with a similar product from a competitor. I don’t want to see their competitor’s products or weakness in a 30 seconds TV ad; I want more info on the vendor’s products!

    I agree: the Apple products are a bit more expensive, but we’re saving a bundle in support and maintenance resources internally. As any small businesses, I was the one supporting employees with their workstations and I couldn’t take it anymore wasting my precious time on internal desktop support! Yeark!

    Not sure if Apple products would fit well in a large enterprise, but I feel it is the best/cheaper solution for small businesses with 20 employees or less.

    Apple should concentrate on a marketing campaign targeting the small businesses.


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