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Microsoft's "Laptop Hunters" Campaign Eating Away at Apple

It's easy to dismiss Microsoft's $300 million rebranding effort as an attempt to paint over fundamental problems with the company's products. Apple certainly has, continuing to belittle its PC counterparts as buggy and virus-ridden with the relentless "Get a Mac" campaign. But data released by BrandIndex reveals that ad lab Crispin Porter + Bogusky has finally helped Microsoft turn the corner, and that Apple may need to rethink its derisive response to Microsoft's new "Laptop Hunter" ads.

Microsoft's latest ad blitz follows several young people searching for the perfect computer. If that person can find the computer he or she wants within a certain budget—so goes the gimmick—the marketer will pay for it. The customers weigh their options (PC versus too-cool, too-pricey Macs) and invariably settle upon the less expensive, more customizable PC. The idea is simple enough, but the campaign seems to be successfully reshaping the way customers look at Apple's products.

A BrandIndex survey of 5,000 people shows that among the 18-to-34 year-old demographic (that's right, young people) Apple's "value perception" has taken a nose-dive. BrandIndex rates a brand on a scale of -100 to 100 (zero meaning the brand is getting equal positive and negative feedback) by simply asking customers whether they feel they get a good value for their money. Apple enjoyed a value rating of 70 as recently as last winter but has plunged to 12.4 since then. Microsoft, meanwhile, has rebounded from an indifferent zero in February to 46.2 today, indicating that its latest attempt to portray Apple as overpriced is hitting home with customers.

Among the 35-to-49-year-olds demographic, things have been up and down for each company. Microsoft overtook Apple shortly after the campaign began, but Apple quickly regained its dominance. In the 50+ age group, the two brands are pretty much even, perhaps because older adults, being more affluent, make their decisions based on preference rather than cost. While money is the driving factor behind "value perception," the change in consumers' attitudes can't be blamed on the struggling economy; as Advertising Age points out, Apple enjoyed high ratings into the winter, far beyond the market meltdown in August and September.

Apple uncharacteristically responded directly to CP+B's campaign with its own fresh set of television ads last week, deftly turning the conversation back to a message it is more comfortable with: "our product is good, while yours is not." And while Apple's visually clever front page roadblock of The New York Times Website this week touted Apple's customer satisfaction cred, CP+B and Microsoft(finally) proved that even concerning a brand as hip as Apple's, satisfaction has its limits.

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Related: Microsoft to Open Retail Stores While Apple Plans Makeovers

[via Advertising Age]