The Difference Between Apple and Microsoft Marketing

Includes: AAPL, MSFT
by: Yankee Group

By Carl Howe

I write frequently about the differing marketing approaches of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). But yesterday, an article titled Time Rich or Time Poor? by Jeremy Liew over at Lightspeed Venture Partners really crystallized that difference for me. He defines the terms as follows:

Broadly speaking, there are two types of internet users, Time Rich (more time than money) and Time Poor (more money than time). I’d speculate that many of the readers of this blog fall into the Time Poor category, but the vast majority of internet users fall into the Time Rich category. If you’re starting a new internet company, its important to know who your audience is, and to make sure that you don’t let your own experience and that of other Time Poor people guide you wrong.

Jeremy then goes on to note that a lot of search engines, e-commerce, and comparison shopping engines are designed for Time Poor users, while social networks, social discovery, and video websites are designed for Time Rich users. And as he notes in the definition, there is a demographic gulf between the two groups as well: Time Poor typically implies money rich, while Time Rich implies money poor.

The "aha" moment I had today was that Apple's marketing is designed for Time Poor buyers, while Microsoft's is designed for Time Rich buyers.

Think about it. Apple sells computers using minimalist design, marketing, and interfaces. They clear away clutter and distill the experience down to a Zen-like minimum, assuming that the user doesn't have the time to wade through irrelevant data. Apple doesn't present a million options; instead, the interface says, "This is the way you do it." Want to buy a song for your music player? Buy it from iTunes. Apple doesn't provide choices because its customers are time starved and just want to get the job done.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is all about giving you the most options possible, assuming you will spend hours and hours weighing and evaluating each one. Its software is all about how long the feature lists are. Its wizards force you to evaluate many criteria in a step-by-step way to guide you to making a choice. Want to buy Windows? Here are six version to choose from. Want to buy a song for your music player? Here are five PlaysForSure stores to buy it from. Microsoft provides maximum choice because it believes its users are Time Rich and money poor.

We shouldn't restrict this marketing observation to just Apple and Microsoft, either. Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) minimalist interface is designed for the Time Poor; Yahoo's (NASDAQ:YHOO) deep and link-rich environment appeals to the Time Rich. The Wall Street Journal? Time Poor. Time Rich. 200 channels of cable TV: Time Rich; TiVO (NASDAQ:TIVO): Time Poor.

Liew ends his article with the insight, "Know your audience when you build your site, keep the target clear, and you’ll have a better chance of meeting their needs." I believe that both Apple and Microsoft do exactly this with their products and marketing. That's why the two communities have such a difficult time understanding each other -- they are struggling to bridge the gap between the Time Rich and Time Poor.

It also says that any attempts to convert the other's customers will require techniques that feel very foreign to each community. So next time Apple rolls out an ad that Apple users really hate, don't think that Apple has lost its marketing mojo; they may just be trying to appeal to Microsoft's target audience.