Microsoft's recent campaigns touting Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), including a tongue-in-cheek promotion it unveiled last week, have moved IE's quality perception needle for U.S. adults, according to a brand quality measurement company.
"When we see an inflection [in the quality scores], we look at other events that are happening," said Ted Marzilli, the global manager for BrandIndex, a brand awareness and consumer perception service of U.K.-based YouGov.
While BrandIndex does not gauge reaction to specific ad campaigns, Marzilli called Microsoft's marketing moves "a contributing factor."
IE's perception index is at its highest level since January 2011, said Marzilli.
Microsoft has been running national television ads for IE9 and a week ago kicked off a "browser you loved to hate" website and video. In the latter Microsoft poked fun at computer enthusiasts who obsessively uninstalled IE from friends' and family members' PCs.
The ads and self-deprecating humor seem to have won over some people.
From March 5-14, BrandIndex measured a 10-point jump in the quality perception rating of IE among U.S. adults, and a nine-point increase in the group that identified themselves as early technology adopters. By March 16, IE's quality rating was 50 among U.S. adults, 44 among early adopters.
Not surprisingly, IE's rating is regularly higher in the general population than it is among early adopters, who have long criticized the browser as behind the times.
Mozilla's Firefox, meanwhile, also saw a jump in its BrandIndex score, ending March 16 at 44 for early adopters, 28 for the general public. Unlike IE, Firefox's early adopter score tracks above that of the general population, belying its standing as a more flexible alternative.
"Early adopters and fast followers have a more favorable impression of Firefox than the general population," said Marzilli. "That's in tune with those who consider themselves advanced users, who are usually more eager to explore new technology, and may want to use a more obscure browser because that separates them from their peers."
BrandIndex measures browser brand quality by interviewing 5,000 U.S. adults 18 and older daily, pulling the people polled from a pool of about 1.5 million Americans. Scores range from 100 to -100, and are compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive, meaning that a score of zero is equal parts positive and negative.
BrandIndex doesn't ask people their take on Google's Chrome.
It's difficult to assess whether the spike in perception that BrandIndex reported has translated into more IE users.
But according to Irish Web metrics company StatCounter, IE's U.S. usage share for the seven-day stretch of March 9-15 was 42.3%, eight-tenths of a percentage point higher than the seven days prior. Since March 15, however, IE's average daily share has dropped to 40.8%.
Firefox's U.S. share also moved slightly this month, hitting a seven-day low of 21.3% the same week that IE peaked.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.