In a client presentation last week, I made the point of how Apple has deftly and consistently associated its brand with the concept of innovation. I offered its retail stores as one of many proof points; instead of starting where any normal, smart corporation would—studying the most successful competitive concepts (Best Buy, for example) and incorporating their best ideas, Apple set out to do retail the way Apple would do retail. A bold approach, it was, and perfectly consistent with its brand.
A few hours later I picked up a copy of The Wall Street Journal, in which I read about Microsoft’s unveiling of a retail store of its own,near its headquarters in Bellevue, Washington. Not only does Microsoft call its retail concept—you guessed it—The Microsoft Store, its new location is a mere four doors away from the Belleview Apple Store.
To its credit, Microsoft has introduced an “eye-catching element”—a digital mosaic of some 120 high-def TV screens that “envelop the store on all sides” and “can be harnessed for a demonstration of a Microsoft product like a mobile phone.” Good for them. But that point came after an observation from the reporter that, not surprisingly, didn’t surprise me: “The store owes an obvious debt to the open atmosphere of Apple’s retail stores, with gadgets arrayed on large tables where customers can try them out.”
I’m old enough to remember that Windows was a knockoff of the original Mac interface. Now Microsoft is knocking off Apple’s retail concept—its design, its name and, in this case, even its location. One brand keeps innovating, and one keeps duplicating. At least they’re consistent.
Steve McKee is a BusinessWeek.com columnist, marketing consultant, and author of “When Growth Stalls: How it Happens, Why You’re Stuck, and What To Do About It.” Learn more about him at www.WhenGrowthStalls.com and at https://twitter.com/whengrowthstall.