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Are Apple ads hurting Microsoft's brand?

A ranking of brand image has Microsoft falling from No. 11 to No. 49. The study's authors say that Apple's "I'm a Mac" ads could be partly to blame.

A new ranking of global brands shows Microsoft's reputation sinking in recent years. Among the possible factors: Apple's "I'm a Mac" ads.

Microsoft lands at No. 59 in the rankings for 2007, down from No. 11 in 2004, according to the survey from CoreBrand released Wednesday.

Are Apple's ads hurting Microsoft's brand image? Apple

"The effect of Apple's 'Hi, I'm a Mac' advertising campaign may have taken its toll on Microsoft," CoreBrand CEO James Gregory said in a statement. "The launch of a series of new products, following a long, relatively dormant period, will be closely watched to see if it will have a positive impact on the Microsoft brand."

Some other tech firms have also seen their brand on the move. Motorola has dropped to No. 94 from No. 83 in 2006, while Toshiba rose 10 notches over the prior year, to No. 71. And as for that Cupertino, Calif.-based troublemaker, I couldn't find it on the list.

In fairness to the folks in Redmond, they have fared far better in other recent brand studies. They were No. 1 on a list of Britain's top "superbrands" last year, and No.2 in an August BusinessWeek ranking of top global brands (trailing only Coca-Cola).

I don't know how much stock I put into the study, or its thesis that Apple is to blame, but it is an interesting question. How has Apple's rise affected Redmond's overall image beyond just a few points of PC market share?

When Apple occupied a smaller niche, it could be argued that what happened on the Mac side of things was less relevant to how Microsoft is perceived. But now that Apple has a larger role, is it affecting how Microsoft as a company is seen?

Meanwhile, in the world of brands, there's another study out Wednesday that says that people who look at advertising start to take on the qualities they associate with that brand. So, in that study, those who look at an Apple logo become more creative.

So I have a test for you, my loyal readers. Please stare at the Microsoft logo for the next hour, or five minutes, or whatever you can stand. Then draw something and send it in to me. (Let me know if it is something we can publish or just for my amusement.)