The study (no link available as it is a paid report) has two core components: 1) An overall TRUE brand compass ranking gives a snapshot of a brand’s resonance — the emotional connection a customer has with a brand, and 2) the TRUE brand compass scorecard reveals a brand’s progress along each of the four TRUE dimensions.
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 study found that although Apple had the highest overall rank for being “unmistakable,” and, “remarkable,” consumers do not consider the company as essential as Microsoft.
While Apple and Samsung battle it out to reign supreme, Microsoft has quietly stolen the consumer technology crown by becoming more trusted and essential across multiple generations. The very ubiquity that perhaps makes it uncool turns out to be its strength.
UTA’s Brand Studio New Brand Dependency Index backs Forrester up. It found that “Windows surpassed all other brands that consumers say they can’t live without and relate more to themselves.” Windows was at the top of the list that those polled said they were most dependent on, with respondents noting, “This brand is part of who I am.” Apple ranked eighth and Google was third. UTA admit that the results are counter to conventional wisdom - numerous other such reports usually have Apple and Google at the top of consumer lists.
Interestingly Apple was the most polarising with the largest range of aversion to attachment scores – love them or hate them but little middle ground. BlackBerry had the highest aversion score – its almost pure hate there.
Hardware manufacturers Asus, Toshiba, LG, HP, and Sony all scored similarly – Samsung streaking ahead of the pack with higher attachment scores. These change a little depending on income brackets – for example, Asus is perceived as better value in lower income bracket whereas Sony takes that place in higher income bracket.
The results come at a time of great change at Microsoft with CEO Steve Ballmer having flagged his intentions to move on to allow space for a new “One Microsoft” - and the move appears to be working. A study by Ipsos found that about 50% of 18-29 year olds now thought Microsoft is cooler than it was a year or two ago. It edged ahead of the leaders Facebook and Twitter.
UTA’s founder and executive director Larry Vincent says, “Among the ways to interpret this index … is that Microsoft isn’t dead yet. Apple is vulnerable because of how polarized people were in their views about the brand. And Microsoft is still seen by many as being more like them.”
Companies rise and fall from greatness. Microsoft is on the ascent – not one survey or analyst will argue that point. The question is why?
One factor is that Windows 8 – seen as far too revolutionary for existing desktop aficionados was actually embraced by Gen X and Y who apparently like the style - touch is here to stay.
Another reason relates to Windows Phone “It’s more customisable than, and not as rigid as, an Apple iPhone, where you have to buy all the products from Apple. If you want a ringtone, or play your own music, or recorded TV shows you don’t have to pay iTunes.” – No piracy endorsement intended.
And there has been a very successful and subtle Windows/Nokia product placement program on recent hit US TV shows – Arrow, Under the Dome, Burn Notice, Hawai 5-0, Castle, Elementary, and NCIS to name a few. Ever noticed that these shows are even using the saying “Bing it” instead of Google or search it.
Apple does product placement too. Omnicom's Interbrand consultancy division stated that in 2010 Apple reigned supreme in Hollywood films. It had product placement in 33 'number one' US box office films with 591 total brand or product appearances for an average of 17.9 placements per film. Recently every person in House of Cards or locally at Summer Bay in Home and Away uses a MacBook, iPad or iPhone – it is as if nothing else exists …
My call is that after a turbulent few years we are seeing common sense prevail. People selecting devices based on their needs – not just because its cool.