New York Times recently ran an article suggesting that Zune users buy the Zune because they don’t want an iPod. The Slate suggests that NYT is calling this “anti-branding” a more extreme version of “counter-branding.” Basically this method of marketing positions your product opposite your competitor’s product.
This technique is used quite a bit; for instance 7-Up openly calls itself “the uncola,” marketing it as an alternative to colas. Business Week points out the more recent example of “Mamma Mia!” as the alternate choice to the blockbuster “Batman: The Dark Knight” for people who didn’t buy into the hype or just had no interest in seeing what everyone else wanted to see.
Is Microsoft positioning the Zune as the anti-iPod, and are people buying Zunes because they’re not iPods?
On some level, the marketing appeal was to have people who owned the iPod feel part of a unique group; however it’s popularity made it’s ownership so widespread that the iPod passed its peak of “coolness.” While still viewed as cool by many, others didn’t want to be part of the crowd, but still wanted to have a sense of identity.
Zune took the opposite approach conveying the message that music, unlike the iPod itself, wasn’t a mass market product, but rather a social connection within a group of friends and, at the same time, a very individual thing. The Zune was actively using counter-branding in order to differentiate itself from the iPod, but is this a more extreme anti-branding?
Anti-branding would be need to be more of a direct attack and I have yet to see even a subtle jab from Zune’s corner. I see their campaign as coy or almost apathetic- kind of like “Hey, we’re just hanging out listening to music and enjoying life. Oh this thing? It’s a Zune. Never mind that, you can check it out later. Let’s go break dance first.” Initial campaigns barely showed off the capabilities of the device. I can hardly call this an anti-iPod or an anythingbutipod message.
By contrast Apple is a bit more forceful and manipulative conveying the message that “If you don’t own an iPod you’re not part of the cool crowd.” But this still isn’t anti-branding, and Apple doesn’t need to anti-brand since they hold the majority share and are not even close to being an underdog.
They are, however, an underdog elsewhere and do actively anti-brand in the OS market. Who hasn’t seen a Mac vs PC ad? This is a textbook classic anti-branding marketing technique called FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. This campaign has been working extremely well as Apple manipulates consumers’ own words. How many times have you heard someone say “Vista Sucks” when they haven’t even used Vista? The Mojave Experiment is great proof of how well Apple marketing has brainwashed the general public. Apple’ marketing message is often: buy a Mac because it is anythingbutvista.
Microsoft is not using an anti-branding message, and they are not luring customers into the Zune because the Zune is AnythingButiPod. Anti-branding doesn’t work for MP3 manufactures – just ask SanDisk. When SanDisk launched the Sansa e200 series player they directly attacked the iPod with the iDont campaign. It featured blatant anti-branding, calling iPod users iSheep. I personally thought it was fantastic drumming up attention, whether it was good or bad. But I don’t think SanDisk found it effective since it was pulled shortly after and the iDont.com site ceased to even redirect to SanDisk’s site.
Buying an Anythingbutipod
There will always be a number of consumers purchasing a product because it’s not another product, especially when that other product is popular without active counter- or anti-branding. As I have shown you, Microsoft is not using anti-branding, but are people buying the Zune because it’s not an iPod? Absolutely! And I have proof.
Every month 1,500 people enter this site though the search term “ipod alternatives” showing that finding an alternative to the popular iPod is indeed in the minds of some consumers. These people are buying Zunes and other players because they are not iPods. That mentality does indeed exist, but is this is only one of many reasons people buy a Zune or any other anythingbutipod for that matter.
The New York Times article states that the director of Zune brand marketing, Robert Schaltenbrand, claims people are buying the Zune because it’s a better product, and I honestly believe that myself. Okay, okay, he is in charge of the Zune and I started a site called anythingbutipod, so some may see a conflict of interest, but when features are compared, you cannot doubt that the Zune can do much more.
The rivalry will go on and the Zune’s marketshare will steadily increase, but will it increase to the point where an anythingbutzune mentality is created? Time will tell, but it is certain that when a company can create an organic “anythingbut…” attitude, it is a mark of success.