This is an extended version of my response to a debate on brandchannel.com.
Microsoft and Apple are two different product classes. Apple is a brand that represent a range of products, based on principles of design, style, and social identity. Microsoft makes an operating system that is used in PCs (and on some Macs). What Mac has been able to do is convince consumers that there are two choices when it comes to technological decisions – A Mac and… Not a Mac (aka PC). The target markets are based on different segmentation criteria, so a whiz-bang ad campaign won’t be the Apple killer. But that doesn’t really matter, because Microsoft positions its brand through other means, e.g., distribution, compatibility with other applications, sheer numbers of users. So, Microsoft isn’t directly competing for the same market as Mac – the Mac offer is different to the Microsoft offer. What a rebranding campaign has to consider is how Mac was able to create a competitor that didn’t actually exist, i.e., PC, and then position itself as better than it. And that’s where the difficulties for Microsoft comes in – because their strategy has been about mass markets, there are naturally going to be more people with problems, thus more identification of dissatisfaction. So, the solution, as I see it, is that Microsoft have to keep doing what they are doing, but, create sub-brands or alternative brands, that match Mac at what they do best – design, efficient and effective operating systems, free applications, etc., (and stop being so mercenary and mean-spirited) – but not brand them as Microsoft.
A bit like Lexus.