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Microsoft vs Apple: Who is the top dog?

When looking at the brand rivalry of Microsoft vs Apple, I go back in my personal history to the time I first met Bill Gates at a conference in 1978 called Wescon. It was a chance meeting, and I learned about the basic programming language interpreter that he had written for the Altair computer. A brief discussion that opened my mind. I was just a child of 13 at the time and my father had “snuck” me in to the conference. I had just started learning about computers with one of the first TRS-80 computers from Radio Shack, and I was absorbed by the scene. In this discussion, Gates talked about the computer one day becoming something that not only could run a business, but that could be used at home to control lights, thermostats, and even play games. I remember the car ride home- when I was raving about the possibilities, Dad asked if I was too lazy to get up and change the thermostat or turn off the lights my self – why would I need a computer for that? For him, the computer he had bought me was for word processing and probably some simple games – a step up from Pong.

In that moment I learned that Microsoft would one day focus on the ubiquity of computing, controlling things, processes, etc. Apple on the other hand was different. I had the opportunity in the late 70s and early 80s to work with the Apple II computer. The focus was clearly more on visual actions than programming. More games, fewer business utilities. As I entered the business world in the Graphics Communications industry, specifically digital printing, that difference was never more apparent. Up until very recently, if you spoke with a graphics designer, media person or Agency, and you weren’t on a Mac, you would be scoffed at. Meanwhile, when I had to outfit my national team of production printing analysts with laptops, and I insisted on Macs, the company IT infrastructure pushed back hard, always insisting on PCs. I won that battle but it speaks volumes to the paths that these two giants took in their messaging – Corporate vs Artistic, Right Brain vs Left Brain, Numbers vs Number of colors.

In the famous 1984 Olympic Hammer Throwing ad for Apple, we saw this dystopian, artistic yet cold call to action – breaking free of the rigid business thinking into new and great heights of individuality. Microsoft, however, focused on creating the best possible business productivity software which was not unique, but served as an important evolutionary point in the development of corporate communications and governance.

Now in the last 14 years, since the iPhone was released, we began to see convergence in messaging. Suddenly, business apps could be run on your smartphone, and cloud based software could eliminate the need for big corporate PCs at a desk,

So in this battle, who was he Dog, who was the Underdog. I submit each was both, depending on the industry and use case for each. Brand messaging played squarely to their bases, like political candidates. Apple embraced the artsy, graphics, design communities, Microsoft the corporate IT world. Interestingly though, they both attacked the schools. Both had significant brand presence, having both given away hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment and software to early education, in hopes of snaring brand loyalty at the most impressionable age. This battle continues to this day.

For our purposes, I will focus on Apple as the underdog in the corporate IT space.In order to perform better in this space Apple must convince the IT CIO world that Apple MacOS X is a more secure platform than Windows. In fact, most breaches of security happen due to Microsoft failures. This should be an easy case for Apple to prove out, but they will need to think differently. At the core, Mac OS X operating system is built on Unix, considered the most secure computing operating system ever. Developed by Bell Labs, until recently, it drove most industrial equipment because of its bulletproof nature and secure structure. Apple however, was so focused on creating a new experience on top of Unix, that they never took advantage of their natural benefit. So my 3 suggestions for Apple:

  1. A public Hack-a-Thon event where hackers of all types are invited to hack into a secure Mac based datacenter and a Windows based datacenter. Just the mere bravado will get attention
  2. Actively market to CIOs the concept of convergence from Windows to Mac in the datacenter, while allowing Microsoft operating systems to operate on Mac servers. Replacing the hardware without significant change to infrastructure. It’s only natural that the OS comes next
  3. Micro-influencer targeting – find those who are respected in the industry and work with them to change their mind – not by paid interaction but by genuinely responding to their belief in Microsoft superiority, and then documenting their transition to liking Apple products more. Earned Media is key here.

Why do Microsoft users prefer them as a brand? Simple, this goes back to the old IBM axiom that if you buy Big Blue, you’ll never be fired. In other words, andIBM mainframe (and later PC) purchase was always safe since it was a known quantity. Such is the case with the risk averse IT world. However, when flayed open for the world to see, IT professionals should see that my preference, Apple and the Mac hardware/OS platform, provides a historically longer track record of security and stability, while, yes, being the trendier and prettier of the two as well!

Under Armour and Over Weight

In 2014, Under Armour chose to take a bite out of a market segment that they previously had weak performance with. The women’s athletics marketplace had been a disaster when Adidas attempted to market to it, and they were the number two athletic-weat brand in the world. So why then, would Under Armour go after it just one year later. Simple, Kevin Plank, Under Armour’s founder, thought he could do better….and he did.

When Under Armour launched the multi-channel campaign, he threw more at it than any other marketing effort. He wanted to saturate the market with messages of non-traiditional athletes succeeding in very athletic ways. He was telling a story that a ballerina, or a boxing beauty queen, was as much of a tough, strong athlete, as the football players that made up the core of the Under Armour customer base.

The contraposition of beauty and brawn made the campaign a success. Under Armour grew their women’s clothing revenues to 30% of their total revenues. People got behind the message, and soon expansion into even more products and market segments followed.

Do what can we take away from this story….

  1. Just because someone else tried, doesn’t mean that the market segment you are wanting to attack won’t respond
  2. Shifts in market segments require creating discomfort in the mind of the consumer, forcing them to think about your product in a way they hadn’t yet. Think of it as Cher in Moonstruck slapping you across the face and yelling “Snap Out of It!”
  3. Moving into a new market segment requires shifting mindsets from the inert set to the evoked set. Inert meaning that no one thinks about you in the segment, but they don’t have anything against you. Evoked means that when they think about the segment, they think about you.
  4. It’s not necessary to use influencers, as much as it is to use aspirational examples, to bolster the story that drives the emotion to think of your product. It just so happens that influencers tend to be the best of what they do. They tend to be the aspirational source, but not always. Sometimes we are inspired to do better when a kid in a wheelchair offers a fuzzy blanket in exchange for a donation. So your segment your targeting may or may not need “Influencers”, but perhaps just micro-influencers.

SO what market do I think can be marketed to, as a new segment? Well, according to the CDC over 40% of all Americans are obese… not overweight…obese. So I’m not targeting a diet food, or an exercise program. I would target the personal professional and casual clothing industry. Big people have the need to look good at work or out on the town, but anyone overweight, much less obese, has to battle the looks of disdain and even fear when a skinny rail of a millennial sees you walking towards their department, knowing they have nothing that will fit you. This a huge market potential that currently is served really by only one retailer, DXL. Previously, Rochester Big and Tall also existed and targeted high end clientele. However, they suffered from poor word of mouth and no social media environment to whom to market, and they were ultimately purchased by DXL. A company that could develop a multi-channel, inspirational campaign that lifted (no pun intended), the obese man and woman up, with products that were of very good quality materials, built well with wearability in mind, and priced like similar products in the 99% of other stores, would certainly corner the market. And yes, I would be one of those customers!

Consumer Behavior & My Way of Thinking

If I were to categorize the type of consumer I am it would be this: an Individual consumer who is influenced by cognitive responses to the marketing I encounter. When searching for my last farm truck, for example, my attributing reliable and powerful engines to the FORD brand and the PowerStroke Diesel engine led me to spend twice as much on the truck as I had originally wanted. I felt that taking all things into comparison, that one element would be the most compelling.

My purchase decisions are made following my researching the possible solutions to a need which I have identified. I rarely buy on impulse, and for the most part ignore the very compelling marketing efforts at the checkout aisle! Rather, when I look at the fundamental messaging that influences me, I respond to imagery which is aspirational to my specific vision and goals for life. I seek products that are positioned as reliable and peer-reviewed, but I don’t want to be one of many. I want to buy the fringes. That is to say, those products that are the best (supported by professionals who use them, but that are less known by the general public. As an example, I hosted a radio show as the Executive Chef of the only live cooking radio show in the world. Every week I cooked on air with chefs from around the world. From those engagements, I would learn about the best knife or the best pan. It was then that I discovered carbon steel pans. These are not your standard Calphalon or All-Clad. These are purpose built pans that conduct heat quickly and form the basis of the pans used in most high end restaurants. The specific brand that I chose was based on their marketing positioning their version of the pans as the highest rated amongst Michelin chefs.

Marketing Design may be easy to quantify as to what I respond to – that is to say a focus on that product being for those in-the-know and what the smartest and most knowledgable really buy. The story telling needs to be good, and needs to capture my imagination, while appealing to my cognitive reaction.

Marketing Research influences me in a far different way. If I PARTICIPATE in the market research, I am far more likely to be interested in a final product which comes to market (this goes back to wanting to be in-the-know amongst a small group). However, general market research is only relevant to me when it helps paint that picture that supports my buying habit. Knowing that the top Michelin chefs preferred that brand, for example, paints that story I need to make a purchase decision. But a 5-star google rating from any Tom, Dick or Harry that buys a product has no sway with me. The research needs to look for causal, correlated points that infer the experience level of the user and the exclusivity of the product. Qualitative over quantitative points are most helpful in these cases.

From a post-purchase behavior I frequently compare what I wanted with what I actually got. A gap between the two of significance would be enough for me to turn my back on that brand, and even possibly on a product category. The post-purchase behavior is crucial in product lifecycle planning as it helps determine if consumers will re-purchase or move on to a different product. It’s always less expensive to nurture and keep your current customers than it is to find new ones, and conduct the relevant research, etc.

Concluding Findings & Limitations with Apple

Apple, Inc. is perhaps one of the most monolithic companies in the world when it comes to organizational objectives, but not in the way that you may think. There are no committees at Apple. None. Steve Jobs described their organization in 2014 as set up like a startup. (dfraggd, 2014) Each product has a leader that drives everything about that product. They then all come back together to show where they are progress-wise, and separate back out to continue their work.

Source – dfraggd. (2014). Steve Jobs – Organizational Structure [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

As a result of this structure, multiple groups within Apple reach out to clients to determine satisfaction with existing products, needs on new products, and to overall keep the “Cult of Mac” going from a customer perspective (Kahney, 2006). Apple identifies closely with it’s users, and is unapologetic to those who don’t get it. As a result, when conducting research surveys, whether online or in-store, respondents give thoughtful answers which help the market research tasks.

As for organization objectives, Apple reports that when it comes to business customers, and what Apple wants to provide… “Apple hardware, software, and services work together to deliver a seamless experience that just works.” (Business, 2011) This tracks perfectly with the Apple iGlasses which will provide an immersive, Augmented Reality (AR) for everyday business use case that will complement all other Apple products that someone uses in their daily lives.

Currently, failure in market testing would pose a change to the market research findings – not changing the voracity of the testing, but how it is being achieved in this specific product. Should things change, the product focus of iGlasses as currently presented will be challenged and may take a new form. Nothing from an overall organizational perspective would change the focus on the present findings, however.
Our market research has focused on primary and secondary sources, showing a need and demand in the AR space for business, with Apple proving to be a trusted provider in the business technology wearable space that fits the opportunity. Surveys conducted tie users of social media to those who would value being able to reduce screen time on a phone while maintaining visual intelligence about the world around them that AR provides.

At all times when test marketing the iGlasses product, and thereafter, special attention is being paid to legal, ethical and industry standards regarding the ethical challenges that always on AR can lead to. Whether video capture permissions and privacy, or ethical considerations of tracking individuals who are wearing the glasses, or tracking those who are identified by the glasses as being in the area by utilizing matrix facial recognition, privacy and health of users and anyone that may be affected by unintended consequences. Users will be frequently polled to ensure any potential medical or emotional issues which may involve use of the glasses are quickly identified. As it currently stands, our marketing test will include access to a legal/medical “telemedicine” facetime hotline that will allow users to immediately contact apple should any issues arise during the test period.
Our current test is limited in that all possible social media and databases (such as LinkedIn for facial recognition and ratings systems for local establishments) may not be ready at the time of launch. Social Media developers have been recruited from across the landscape, but new platforms arise every day, and incorporating meaningful use of those platforms, in context with the glasses, will take some time – probably longer than the test marketing period. To rectify this, the Apple iGlasses will have an open API distributed to developers. However, crucial cyber-security components have bee incorporated in the iGlasses Operating System to prevent hackers from exploiting that open API in oder to gain control over Apple iGlasses.


dfraggd. (2014). Steve Jobs – Organizational Structure [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

Kahney, L. (2006). The cult of Mac. San Francisco: No Starch Press.

Business. (2011). Apple.

Marketing Research Brief Blog MKT337

I’ve chosen to create a Marketing Research Brief based on Apple Corporation and something I will call iGlasses.

I’ve chosen Apple as they are the singular leader in the smartphone marketing arena, with a commanding portion of the 5.83 Billion device SmartPhone market (according to Gartner) and their trends lead the imagination of the billions of raving fans of their products. This client loyalty is sparked by their exceptional design, interoperability within their platform, innovative interfaces and the enduring feeling that you are part of a bigger community when you have an apple product. Additionally, there is a wide wealth of published and unpublished information within the company that would greatly inform our efforts when conducting Market Research, according to my current sources in Apple Corporation’s R&D group.

Specifically the information that we know Apple possesses is significant data about the Augmented Reality space, Voice Command navigation and Haptix. These areas would provide important groundwork to the marketing research team in a literature review.

Several techniques will be used to conduct the iGlasses Marketing Research plan, which will be detailed in the brief. Principally, we will be using on-line surveys, in-person surveys of existing Apple product users, interviews with futurists in the AI industry, Cyber-security, MarTech and the financial services markets. Sampling for surveys will come across demographics and global locations. In-person questionnaires will focus on industry experts, visionaries and AI industry experts.

IGlasses will provide users with an immersive experience, with multiple app-windows, similar to a typical iPhone, visible on the internal retina projection in both eyes. Forward looking cameras built in to the nose bridge will provide context and correction to users, such as face-mapping and matching to social media databases-I.e. LinkedIn, as well as vision correction for any user to possess better than 20/20 sight. Imagine having a zoomed in view projected directly into your eyes, taking into account any normal lens correction. Haptix will also provide sensory feedback in the form of vibration, simliar to an iphone. But imagine using iGlasses when driving long distances, and having them vibrate to ensure you stay awake during sleepy trips!

Ethical considerations will need to be examined. Potential privacy and even HIPPA concerns should follow the same concerns of any iPhone type of product. In reality, with Apple’s built-in Web AR toolkit which allows for simple integration of Augmented Reality into even a printed sign when viewed through the iPhone camera and web-browser, these iGlasses really won’t do anything an iPhone can’t already do – it will just be more discreet.

Currently, I see no market limitations to the product, nor have I come across engineering challenges that can not be dealt with. Simply put, it is now a question of What If? for industry experts and average users alike to tell us what this could mean for them, and the implications for the future.

Influencers & the Decline of Western Civilization


Ok. Perhaps the title and imagery is a bit dramatic, but it sums up my view of paid influencers as it relates to the CMOs desire and need to control messaging. A recent viewing of the 60 Minutes segment called “The Influencers” (© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc) lays bare the new trend which is earning some at the top of their Influencer game, millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars (such as Kim Kardashian).

Kim Kardashian doesn’t even have a talent, other than self-promotion. I mean she certainly has some attributes that caught the attention of many, but her talent is the fact that she can instruct others, at scale, in what to do, how to do it, and most importantly, with what product.

Logan Paul, on the other hand, has blended comedy, mockumentaries, provocative statements throughout social media, and now ad videos that now include, according to the 60 minute interview, his own direction and creative for a major international Donut company! Most recently, Logan Paul took on Heavyweight legend Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition bout that earned him a $250,000 base take and up to $20,000,000 in residuals from PPV.

The strategies of using a product in a direct or indirect manner throughout their social footprint has earned Influencers a second look by the Federal Trade Commission. Just as with any other advertising, professional influencers are bound by disclosure requirements – stating that they are being paid for the endorsement, according the the 60 minutes interview.

So social influencers, who earn Billions of followers by the way, are a great way for business to set a ground game in action. This is true “grass roots” advertising. Everything, it appears, is up for endorsement by these people. Whether influencer fatigue will set in one day is not even being discussed, yet!

So why do I have the dystopian view of Influencers, and why western civilization declines with their use? Simple, accountability! Who is controlling the brand look and feel, the messaging – keeping things “on-message”? Have we as marketers suddenly given up on all of that? Is there no longer an interest in Brand Guides and Creative Briefs?

Paid influencers give companies an arms length relationship with their consumers. Since the videos, posts and tweets normally go through no QC or legal review, companies get away with the exaggerations that they could never benefit from through normal advertising/marketing interaction. It’s the Wild Wild West and the FTC is just catching up.

Now with all of this said, I think there is a different level of influencer that is far more useful and presents less of a direct threat to the integrity of a company – Earned Media Micro-Influencers. These are people who are not paid for their endorsement of products, but their reach to their personal social networks gives companies great exposure through what we call UGC or User Generated Content. UGC can then be repurposed for national reshares by the brand if a review of the message complies with the marketing strategy. The Micro-Influencer gains by earning national notoriety and presence, which in turn gives them a better chance at paid media engagements, or just to be more “popular’ in the social media realm.

So influencers, the capitalist in me is incredibly jealous that I didn’t get to capitalize on this trend! But the marketer in me is waiting for the other shoe to drop, when marketers find themselves in so much trouble for this crazy free for all due to class action suits, wrongful death suits, etc, that they will be forced to change the rules and truly treat paid Influencers just as any other celebrity endorsement, complete with ethics and morals clauses, content reviews, legal reviews, etc. For my money (and really none is needed – that’s the best part), I would much rather use the genuine UGC that can support a brand and message.

Full disclosure, I follow no Influencers! I do follow great speakers and though leaders, but they aren’t selling me things – for example Simon Sinek. I follow him on LinkedIn, but he’s never tried to sell me running shoes or zit cream.