Microsoft beats Apple for king of the fanbois

Apple no longer is first in the hearts of American consumers. Instead, Microsoft is the new king and has the most compelling brand, according to Forrester. How did Microsoft manage to do it?

The Forrester survey found that Microsoft has the most powerful brand among technology companies, followed by Apple, then Sony, and then Samsung. Tracy Stokes, the Forrester analyst in charge of the survey, writes that

"Microsoft was the only brand in the survey to achieve the coveted trailblazer status -- indicating that the Microsoft brand is at the forefront of brand building with a unique and distinct brand identity that sets it apart from other brands."

The survey polled more than 4,500 U.S. adults in August and used what Forrester calls its TRUE methodology, which measures the strength of a brand in a number of vertical markets. The results will likely surprise many people, and in fact, they surprised Forrester and Stokes as well. Microsoft achieved its success in large part because of its reorganization and unifying its branding under a single umbrells. Stokes told Computerworld:

"We were surprised by the results, too. Time was definitely a factor. I think the results would have been much different a year or 18 months earlier."

What set Microsoft apart from other companies was in what Forrester calls the Essentials category -- how essential is it to people's lives. She said:

"Microsoft's essentiality is so ubiquitous, there's really no alternative [in consumers' minds] to Windows and Office. Microsoft has a utilitarian essentiality, not the kind of emotional essentiality that Apple relies on."

Hurting Apple is that consumers no longer have a strong emotional connection with the company. Stokes wrote in the report:

"Although Apple is seen as providing products and services 'that meet my needs' and offering 'the highest-quality product/offering,' consumers do not consider Apple to be as essential as Microsoft. Apple was once emotionally essential, but as it loses its emotional hold, it won't be able to win solely on utilitarian qualities."

In other words, fanbois no longer worship at Apple's altar.

In fact, fanbois are a vanishing breed, and I can vouch for that personally. In years past, whenever I wrote anything negative about Apple, the spate of nasty, furious comments from Apple lovers quickly followed. That's no longer the case. Yes, fanbois are still out there, but there are far fewer of them, and they're not quite as rabid.

It's ironic that Microsoft has the most notable brand at a time when it can't manage to push itself into new markets, and its old technology is struggling. Windows 8 still remains unpopular, and Windows Phone and Windows tablets lag far behind Android and iOS. So while Microsoft can be pleased that it's done good work building its brand, it needs to find a way to cash in on that and make headway in mobile.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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