Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are not new marketing or advertising techniques. They’ve been in use in many industries for as long as there’s been competition or customers.
Recently, FUD has taken on an even uglier and more pervasive appearance in the neighborhood of Apple Computer. Why?
Apple’s on a roll. A very successful, productive, profitable roll of excellent products, growing revenue, high market mindshare, increased marketshare, and a commanding presence in the online and portable music market.
Naturally, competition being what it is, will do whatever it can to topple Apple’s position, or, at the very least, slow Apple’s momentum while enhancing their own position and stature.
You’d think that competition would simply try to build a better mousetrap, but that’s not in the nature of some of the companies involved in the recent tsunami flood of FUD.
Evil knows no bounds, apparently. Dell Computer owns about 20-percent of the worldwide market share for PCs, yet CEO Kevin Rollins took to blasting away at Apple (at about 2-percent of market share), calling Apple’s success a “one product event.”
Not to be outdone, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer calls iPod users “thieves” and proceeds to tell the public that his company “invented” the Personal Computer industry (even Apple doesn’t claim that, though they have a closer right).
Ballmer goes on to say that Linux (the open source and “free” operating system competing quite well against Microsoft) “may” be violating many patents. Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.
More recently, Real Networks’s CEO Rob Glaser decided to pounce on Apple’s slice of the music pie (based on Rob’s portliness, there’s plenty of pie pouncing going on behind the scenes) and throw his weight behind a few barbs and pokes targeted to Apple’s direction.
Not to be outdone is Napter’s beleaguered CEO Chris Gorog’s recent comments fanning the flames of competition by saying Apple CEO Steve Jobs “must be pretty frightened of Napster.”
What’s the public think of all this? After all, Apple is usually beloved by millions of ardent customers who are often more “fans” of the company’s products, than just “buyers.”
The buying public, unfortunately, can be swayed, and ill-formed opinions can be set in stone, not easily modifed over time. For example, have you ever heard, “There’s no software for the Mac?” We know that to be blatantly untrue.
How about, “Macs cost more than PCs.” Heard that one? It’s wrong, too.
Another: “Mac market share is less than 2-percent!” Lies, damned lies, statistics. But it’s tough to explain the truth to people who’ve been so indoctrinated by competitive FUD.
Here’s the most recent, most insidious, most dangerous piece of FUD I’ve seen in a long, long time. Guess who? Microsoft.
First, the setup. Apple owns the hard drive portable music player market at about 90-percent. In the flash-based portable music scene, Apple is just getting started (two whole months already) but is expected to own the lion’s share by late summer as iPod shuffle sales are through the roof.
Microsoft, a late starter with online music, has signed up every flash and hard drive-based portable music player manufacturer on the planet, except… you guessed it… Apple.
That means Microsoft isn’t doing well, but their best hope is with flash-based players, because Apple, too, is just getting started in that market segment.
What does Microsoft do? FUD. Click Here to read the latest hairball coughed up by Microsoft’s marketing drones on How To Buy A Flash Memory MP3 Player.
It’s laughable. It’s pure, unadulterated FUD to the Nth degree, superbly executed and insidiously foisted on an ignorant public—Microsoft’s customer base.
Microsoft lists Six Tips for Buying an MP3 Player with Flash Memory. Why not six tips for buying a portable hard drive MP3 player? Because Apple already owns 90-percent of that market and is just getting started in the flash market.
1. Understand the basics.
Microsoft’s drones conjured up copy that points out flash players don’t “skip” like hard drive players.
2. Make sure you’re getting all the goodies.
What else do you need? According to Microsoft’s ad copy clowns, a “built-in voice recorder, FM recorder, or stopwatch.” Of course, you pay a little extra for those in an iPod.
3. You’ll want a display.
Let the copy do the talking, Tera: “When you have hundreds of songs on your player, you really need an easy way to select your music by artist, album, or genre. This is critical if you want to find that one song or artist you really want to hear. A display also comes in handy when you’re looking for your favorite radio station.”
4. Let a professional make your next playlist.
Microsoft says an “FM radio is a key feature that many players offer at no extra cost, even for less than $100.” The FUD implication here is that, if you’re looking at a player that does NOT have an FM radio, you are getting shortchanged.
Of course, there’s no FM radio on an iPod.
The playlist? FUD implication here is that you shouldn’t even control your own playlist, just listen to the FM radio instead (and the DJ’s playlist). Anything less is just wrong (or, so they’d like the unsuspecting customer to believe).
5. Pick the right size for you.
Here you’ll see a simple table that outlines song capacity and megabytes and song compression “quality” (as measured by Microsoft). More FUD.
Non-iPod music players always count their song capacity based on 64kBps compression, vs. Apple’s 128Kbps compression rate. Result? More songs on the player at 64 vs. 128. Except that 64 sounds bad, which is why online stores provide music at least at 128Kbps. More FUD.
6. Don’t get locked into one online store.
What could sound more logical? Or, desperate? The Microsoft claim, of course, is that Windows Media music is available at all other stores—except Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Forget the fact that most songs cost the same, and most larger stores play mostly the same music, same price, different format.
What it boils down to is Microsoft’s next-to-last gasp to find an opportunity in online music. Bash hard drive players. Bash non-display players. Bash players without 127 bells and whistles. Bash choice (playlists). Bash the best online music store in the business.
FUD. Unfortunately, such tactics from a Goliath-like Microsoft often work against a David-like Apple. Why? Microsoft’s customer base doesn’t know any better, so they simply follow the company line and assume, wrongly, that “this is the way it’s supposed to be, right?”
I once read a survey that pointed out that Apple’s Mac (by implication, iPod users, at least the early adopters) users, in general, tend to be better educated, are more intelligent, have higher disposable incomes, maintain higher social standing, and make more informed decisions than the average Windows user.
Works for me.
Is FUD bad? Yes. It perpetuates ignorance. A company with a mediocre product often resorts to FUD use instead of working on producing a product that’s actually an improvement over the competing product.
How do you fight FUD? Patience. Determination. Fight FUD with facts. Get your FUD inspired friends and co-workers some face time with an Apple product.
In fact, most iPod users already can tell a difference between Apple products and the rest of the world, hence the great sales surge in iPods of every flavor, and a higher-than-industry increase in other Mac products.
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