How Samsung, Microsoft and stupidity are staining Apple’s brand image

Microsoft apple logo samsungI’m at an IBM event this week, and at dinner I had what has been an increasingly frequent experience.

It used to be that attendees at these events gushed about the new Apple gadget they were carrying, and anyone who expressed reservations seemed out of touch with the group. Much like talking about religion or politics from the minority position at the dinner table, bashing Apple was one sure way to ensure everyone thought you were an idiot.

But last night, instead of showing off an Apple device, another guest showed off his new Samsung Galaxy S III phone, which led to more chatter about my new Microsoft Surface tablet. It spiraled into an “everyone dump on Apple” event, and by the end of the evening, Cupertino’s sole defender seemed to be considering other options.

This may be anecdotal, but I’ve seen the same event played out several times recently among analysts and other influencers in the tech space. It makes me think Apple’s image is changing, and the firm’s products are losing their magical edge.

Samsung’s anti-Apple marketing

The blemish on Apple’s spotless image didn’t just appear there; Samsung helped etch it into the glossy white plastic quite intentionally. Its excellent marketing campaign has attacked Apple’s image on three vectors.

The first is questioning Apple’s leadership. Samsung’s ads paint Apple’s “upgrades” as features the company accidentally or intentionally left out of prior products (larger screens, 4G radios), or obvious improvements (headphone jacks on the bottom). In some cases, they also point out where Apple still lags behind the curve after launching a new device, like the lack of NFC in the iPhone 5. Samsung wants to depict itself as the innovator Apple is struggling to match.

Second, the campaign raises the idea that Apple fans aren’t smart consumers. They’re depicted slogging through long lines waiting for their technology, and getting unreasonably excited about aspects of the product that aren’t exciting. In fact, the not-so-subtle message is that Apple buyers are kind of dense.

Samsung Apple commercial iphone 5 samsung galaxy s3Finally the ads build on this dense concept by showcasing Apple users as people you wouldn’t want to emulate: Your parents. Dorks. Clueless hipsters. This is designed to strip away the prestige that Apple products typically carry.

For all its mocking, Samsung actually copied Apple with its first smartphones, but has since diverged, trying to drag away the perceived market leadership with it. The Korean company waged a similar type of warfare on Sony in the television space, which was once the clear leader. Samsung first emulated Sony, then partnered with the company, then took the market away. Sony has never recovered. Granted, Sony had additional issues that complicated things, but the plan worked, and Samsung appears to be following the same playbook with Apple.

Microsoft Surface

Samsung isn’t the only company slinging mud on Apple’s image. The Microsoft Surface tablet is doing relatively well, and Apple’s efforts to disparage it have largely been ineffective (at least so far). It appears to have been designed specifically to make the iPad look wanting in comparison.

As I write this, the Surface is still generating lines, but the important part is it looks both more advanced and more unique than Apple’s offerings. This impression dovetails nicely with Samsung’s efforts, because while the two companies aren’t aligned on products, they are aligned on a common message: Apple’s offerings don’t convey status anymore because they appear to be bought by stupid people.

The too-soon iPad 4 and too-expensive iPad mini

The third leg on this this ugly three-legged stool comes from Apple itself. Its latest launch even showcased an array of different products under one roof, a “big bang” event that trivializes individual products. Firms like Compaq were famous for this approach, but Apple has avoided them like the plague since Steve Jobs returned in the late 90s. Worse, the new iPad made buyers of the old version – launched only back in March – look stupid.

Meanwhile, the iPad mini was priced well out of line with competing models, with inferior specs. When Steve Jobs launched the iPad, it was the lowest priced tablet from a major vendor in its class, and since then, it has remained price competitive against the alternatives. The iPad mini is priced at a 65 percent premium, but lacks the same high-quality displays found on far cheaper competitors. Smart people would probably not buy it as a result. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple discount it significantly once initial demand falls off, leaving early buyers upset and looking stupid yet again.

Destroying Apple’s brand

Apple’s strongest asset is the power of its brand, and the historically valid belief that Apple products are purchased by smart people who are well regarded. This asset is being systematically destroyed, overtly by Samsung, covertly by Microsoft, and stupidly by Apple. Apple is not effectively defending this incredibly valuable asset, and the end result will likely resemble the company that existed before Steve Jobs’ return. That also means a market less dominated by Apple. Since I’m writing this on my Surface Tablet, I’m thinking this may turn out to be a good thing.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Computing

Looking for a new laptop? These 5 notebooks are on sale through Presidents’ Day

If you're ready to ditch your aging notebook, you can score some fantastic Presidents' Day savings right now on Microsoft's Surface Pro 6, Dell's XPS 13, HP's Spectre x360, Lenovo's Yoga C930, and Dell's G5 15 Gaming laptops.
Smart Home

Your office is a mess, and it’s making Marie Kondo cry. Here’s how to tidy it up

Here's how to "Marie Kondo" your office. If you've been inspired to remove clutter and create a minimalistic workspace that makes you happy and helps you focus on what matters, then we have ideas that you'll want to try.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for February 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for December 2018.
Computing

The Surface Pro 6 is a minimalist update on the best tablet 2-in-1

The Surface Pro 6 is officially here, though it's not as big of a redesign as you might have hoped. With a new coat of black paint and an 8th-gen processor, it's a small, but notable update.
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Mobile

Save space on your iPhone by turning off Live Photos in the camera app

If you want to save storage space on your iPhone or reduce the size of your backup for iCloud, then you should think about turning off Live Photos in the camera app. Find out exactly how to do it with our easy guide.
Mobile

Be careful who you bokeh, jokes Apple’s latest iPhone ad

With iPhone sales under pressure, you'd think there wouldn't be much to laugh about at Apple HQ. But the company has seen fit to inject some humor into its latest handset ad, which highlights the camera's Depth Control feature.
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Mobile

How to perform a reverse image search in Android or iOS

You can quickly use Google to search, and reverse search, images on a PC or laptop, but did you know it's almost as easy to do in Android and iOS? We explain how to do it here, whether you want to use Chrome or a third-party app.
Mobile

Flip from portrait to landscape as we reveal how to rotate a video on iPhone

If you've accidentally shot a video in portrait orientation and you want to flip to landscape, then this is the guide for you. We'll explain how to use iMovie to rotate a video on your iPhone or iPad for free and suggest alternative apps.
Mobile

The 2019 iPhone could put a charge into your other Apple gadgets

While it's not been long since the last iPhones launched, rumors for the next iPhone are already surfacing. Apple's 2019 flagship could include a variety of upgrades ranging from a new design to enhanced features.
Deals

Amazon cuts prices on the Apple Watch Series 3 for Presidents’ Day

The Apple Watch Series 3 is seeing the same price cut we saw during the Amazon sale just last week. So if you're hoping to pick up an Apple Watch for less than $250, this $50 discount from Amazon can make that happen for you.
Deals

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for February 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Computing

Chrome is a fantastic browser, but is is still the best among new competitors?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.