Apple's biggest fans are older consumers

May explain reasoning behind heavily-criticized 'Genius' TV ads, says brand measurement firm

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Scores can range from 100 to -100, and are the result of subtracting negative feedback from positive, meaning that a score of zero is equal parts positive and negative.

Before July 2011, scores for the 18-to-34 age group led that of 35 and older. But by November 2011, the older group's score had shot to a record 48, while the younger group's number was 13 points lower at 35.

As of today, the 35+ group's score was 31, or 15% higher then the 18-to-34 age group's score of 27.

"Apple's scores are still very positive," said Ted Marzilli, the global managing director for BrandIndex, in an interview. "It's not passe among younger consumers, but scores for that age group have been declining."

Apple's BrandIndex numbers are significantly higher than the average of the 1,100 brands that Marzilli's team tracks on a daily basis: The median Buzz score is just 4 among 18- to 34-year olds (versus Apple's 27) and only 5 for the 35-and-older group (compared to Apple's score of 31).

"It's only natural," Marzilli said when asked to explain the downward trend of Apple's score since January 2008 among younger consumers. "The iPhone and iPad have more competitors now. Those rivals are vying for the same audience, so I can see early adopters exploring other possibilities. Some of them may find a new home with a Samsung or Kindle."

The rising scores expressed by older consumers point to Apple as a mainstream brand, Marzilli argued. "There's nothing wrong with that, in fact it has obvious advantages," said Marzilli. "Microsoft has been mainstream for 30 years. The key is to be both mainstream and still perceived as cool and innovative, that's the ideal."

Marzilli declined to speculate whether Apple knew that its customers were aging, or at least that older consumers thought more of the brand than did younger ones, when it planned the oft-knocked ads.

"I don't know if I'm making Apple look smarter than they are," said Marzilli of the conclusions reached by BrandIndex.

The three Apple ads starring its Genius can be viewed on the company's website.

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 gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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