Microsoft grabs the right position

Are you a Mac or a PC? The epic battle between Apple and Microsoft rages onward, although these days Apple appears to be kicking butt – at least on the consumer front. It’s hard to believe that the iPhone has only been around a few years, not to mention the even younger iPad.

The Apple brand is a storied case study in what it means to capture imagination and emotion – and create a defined archetype of the “type of person who uses Apple products.” The latest Samsung ads poke fun at the Apple stereotype of hip, young, too-cool-for-school upstarts by mocking their desire to wait hours in line just to have the “right” brand of phone in their pocket. (The best line?, “I could never get a Samsung. I’m creative.” His friend’s snarky reply: “Dude, you’re a barista.”)

While Windows is “still the overwhelming market leader among desktop operating systems” it did slide from 92% share in September 2011 to (gasp) 91% in November 2011. So while concerned, the company is not crying yet. And XBOX continues to dominate the console gaming market. But let’s face it: as an overall company brand, Microsoft and Windows will never “outcool” Apple- at least not anytime soon.

And you know what? I think they are okay with that.

Because they’ve recently been finding a position that can own. One that’s credible. And one Apple is not necessarily going after: families.

You’ve probably seen the TV ads touting “It’s a great time to be a family.” One ad depicts a father running around a grocery store crossing off a shopping list on his Windows Phone, when odd items like coconuts nad candy start to get added to his list. He realizes his giggling sons are at home, updating the list in real-time from their PC. So he types back, “Do your homework” and it pops up on their screen. Another one shows a son struggling to solve long division problems on his computer while his dad grapples with a sales presentation. As the dad takes over the son’s computer to help with his homework, the son instantly turns his dad’s humdrum sales presentation into a rocking extravanza with music, explosion and color. Other ads can be found here.

And on my first trip to a Microsoft retail store, I was pleasantly surprised. At first glance, yes, it mimics the Apple store concept. But then I looked a little closer. The place was packed just before Christmas. Teenagers were playing a Kinect Dance game in the front, busy moms and dads whipped around with strollers. Staffpeople were helping toddlers figure out games on the PCs. I realized that, unlike the Apple store across the street, this place was full of families, not brooding hipsters. And you know what? That’s okay.

Microsoft is showing that you don’t always have to go after the same exact people in order to be successful. This is what is meant by “positioning.” Where does your brand play? Where does it “fit?” Instead of trying to out-Apple Apple, maybe Microsoft is playing to its brand strengths and building off of the success it’s already found with XBOX and Kinect, as well as the great strides it’s taken with Windows 7 and with Windows Phone (which I love, by the way.)

When others zig, maybe it’s the right move to stop trying to catch them and to zag instead. (hint – that’s a tweetable!) Where do you fit? That is what positioning is all about, my lovelies!

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