A number of readers used our new online feedback feature to comment on the ‘Where the clicks are’ opinion piece in the 22 September edition of Reseller News. One asked for a more in-depth look at why some computer companies — namely Microsoft, Dell, Intel and, to a lesser degree, Apple — don’t interest readers as much as in the past. It’s a good question, possibly a worthwhile project for an analyst. The following isn’t research, it’s opinion. All four companies are (it’s still far too soon to say were), iconic technology brands. They occupy leadership positions in their niches and all have made bucket-loads of money for shareholders over the past two or three decades. One plausible explanation for their fading attraction is their marketing — or lack of the right kind of marketing. For example, Intel doesn’t appear to spend any money on advertising in New Zealand. It doesn’t have any appreciable presence here at all. Dell advertises, but its campaigns are all aimed directly at consumers, not resellers. Microsoft appears to be spending less on general and trade advertising than in the past. Maybe the company is keeping its powder dry for the big launches over the next few months. Apple does a lot of TV and poster advertising for its iPod range, but there’s nothing aimed at the channel and not much on the computer front. By contrast, most of the companies with rising interest levels spend money promoting themselves — both to consumers and to resellers. As far as readers are concerned, Hewlett-Packard has been the single most interesting company in recent months — not always for positive reasons. However, the company has a very high marketing profile in New Zealand, which may contribute to the general interest in the company and its products. However, it can’t just be a matter of advertising, public relations and other marketing initiatives. If it were that simple, the brands could spend their way back into people’s hearts and minds. A more intractable problem is they no longer have a simple, clear message. It’s hard to know exactly what they stand for. Dell is no longer cheap. Apple is no longer simply about computers. Microsoft covers a variety of bases. Intel got involved with a whole heap of non-core technologies. And, despite their often colourful marketing campaigns, these companies have become grey and corporate. They’re getting a bit old. No, make that tired. They may have been revolutionary in their youth. They set out to change the world. Now they are reactionaries. Think Fidel Castro. Of course, it would be wrong to describe these companies as has-beens. Apple still consistently rates in the top five; a story about iPods topped our first online hit parade following the website redesign. Likewise, Microsoft can still rate. Two stories about Windows Vista made it into the top ten. Interestingly, there were more than 20 other stories about the company over the two weeks surveyed for the list; none of them rated highly. Readers didn’t even seem interested in a story about Microsoft’s impending iPod rival, something that would have been a guaranteed click-fest at the start of 2006. Perhaps the story about Intel’s quad-core processors didn’t grab as much reader attention as it deserved. The chipmaker really does appear to be a reader turn-off these days. On the flipside, EMC made the top ten twice. Clearly, stories about storage are still hot. We should put the “snorage” label to bed. To underline this, a local story about Datastor made it to number 12 on our hit parade. At first sight, the fact that only one local story — Suzanne Hansen returning with Cisco — made the top ten is a bit disappointing. However, of the next 20 stories all but one was local. And local stories account for over two-thirds of the top 50. The Hansen story also underlines another article of faith in the Reseller News office: our readers really like people stories.
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