Microsoft ad campaign cleans Apple's clock

The Apple guy who so smugly announces, "I'm a Mac" on Apple's TV ads may no longer be smiling: A just-released study shows that Microsoft has pulled significantly ahead of Apple among Apple's core audience of 18-to-34-year-olds. The reason: Microsoft's ubiquitous "Laptop Hunters" ad campaign.

The data comes from BrandIndex, and it's about the value perceptions of the Microsoft and Apple brands. According to Advertising Age, the turnaround has been dramatic. Here's what the magazine says:

Based on daily interviews of 5,000 people, BrandIndex found the age group gave Apple its highest rating in late winter, when it notched a value score of 70 on a scale of -100 to 100 (a score of zero means that people are giving equal amounts of positive and negative feedback about a brand). But its score began to fall shortly after and, despite brief rallies, hovers around 12.4 today.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has risen from near zero in early February to a value-perception score of 46.2.

That means that in a relatively short amount of time, the score went from 70 to 0 in favor of Apple, to 46.2 to 12.4 in favor of Microsoft among that group of consumers. Among 35-to-45-year-olds, Apple beats Microsoft, while with the 50-plus crowd, Microsoft is on top.

Microsoft's "Ad Hunters" campaign shows young people searching for a laptop, and buying Windows-based laptops because they say they're more powerful and less expensive than Macs. In almost any economy, a message like that resonates, but when the economy is in the tank, it's an especially powerful message.

I'd be surprised if Apple didn't change its ad campaign, possibly relatively soon. The "I'm a Mac" ad campaign has been around a long time, and it's clearly run its course. A smug hipster doesn't seem to be the best salesman in tough economic times, especially compared to happy people waving around wads of cash they saved by going with the competition.

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