If you look just like your competition…

…Windows version of the Genius Bar

…then how will I know it’s you?

I was at the Mall of America earlier this month and came upon a Microsoft Windows store.  I’d never seen one before, so we wandered in.  And it wasn’t a Microsoft Windows store.

It was an Apple Store with Microsoft products in it!

Right down to the Genius Bar — they’d copied everything.  That’s hardly the way to build your brand.  In fairness…they did have the hardwood floors and the stools.  So that’s a little different.

But other than that — you name a feature of the Apple Store — and it was there.  (minus the cool products of course…they don’t sell Mac stuff!)

I’d contend that if you don’t have a better sense of who you are and how both you and your customers are different — you have some brand homework to do.  Before you open up shop.

Oh look, people playing with tablets and laptops



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8 comments on “If you look just like your competition…

  1. Coach Mitch says:

    Drew –

    Nicely done. Wow. I hadn’t seen these stores yet, but I think I may take a pass.

    Although, I will say that when you’re getting started with something new… it is so tempting to just copy someone else. Especially when that someone else is the best of the best in your market.

    So I love this reminder to stop… and think… before you launch a copy.

    Here’s a question though. If you were Microsoft… what’s something you would have done to set yourself apart?

    I mean even though I’m a mac person through and through, I know that Microsoft has some strengths they could have played to.

    What’s something you would have suggested they do to be UNIQUELY microsoft?

    Would it be to play up the… I’m a PC thang with kiosks for different ways people could use a pc?

    Or maybe have some of their cool new touch screen tables (that are being used a flippin’ cool high-end restaurants) to do your ordering?

    I don’t know.

    What’s something anyone would suggest they do to actually do something unique?

    Lastly… thanks Drew for another great challenge! You’ve got my mind spinning in good ways buddy… and I haven’t even had my full cup of coffee yet!

    Keep up the great work,


  2. Mary Schmidt says:


    As always, right on target. I couldn’t resist doing my own riff on this on my blog today. I mean, really. If it looks like an Apple store…why not just go to an Apple store? 🙂

  3. Kneale Mann says:

    This type of thing happens all the time. That doesn’t make it right but look at television shows, restaurants, car companies, breakfast cereal, the list goes on and on. In our quest to differentiate, we gravitate to what others seem to do and find success.

  4. Lyssa Wainright says:


    Being from Minnesota and frequenting the Mall of America, I pass these stores on a regular basis. Both my husband and I find it quite amusing that they chose to duplicate the Apple Store, as you stated, even though they are essentially right across the hall from it. It just makes me perceive the Windows Store as uninventive and it makes Apple look even better and more original as marketers, since Windows was not able to create a unique storefront for its customers. This got me thinking as to why Windows would choose to copy Apple: Will the storefronts and similarities between the two brands cause any change in perceptions of the products or brands? Was Windows trying to accomplish something in looking the same as Apple? Nice post!


    1. Lyssa,

      When I saw the positioning of the two stores — I assumed it had to be at Windows’ request. Wonder if they think they can lure some of their former customers back?


  5. Hi Drew,

    Wow. Kind of a curious move.

    The goal is to stand out, not fit in. If you imitate the competition you have zero creativity, and if you have zero creativity it’s tough to build an actual brand. Nobody knows what differentiates you, because you’re not differentiating yourself.

    Your brand won’t be take seriously if it’s not your brand.

    Thanks for sharing your insight with us Drew.


  6. Seriously, this issue is happening not just in physical stores but also in online websites. Sometimes I get stumped, confused whether I’m on the right website. For me, a real and unique company brand is one of the secrets to last for a very long time in the niche. In the end, customers will be asking, “What unique value can you give to me?”

    1. Amelia,

      No doubt about it — businesses (online and bricks and mortar) are afraid to take the risk. So they copy their most successful competitor. Which of course, will always keep them in the shadow of that competitor. You have to be different. You have to stand out. You have to be memorable and recognizable.

      That’s not just branding 101. It’s business survival 101.


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