Bing it.

Interesting to see that Microsoft have turned on the advertising budget to promote their search engine Bing in its seemingly futile attempt to take on Google.

It’s David vs David, a clash of the titans. But Microsoft is so far off the pace it’s hard to watch as it scrambles to play catch-up.

The guys at Microsoft must have thought: OK, Google has first mover advantage (or something approximating that: they weren’t first, but they were first with a decent product), how do we break into the market?

And the answer? Well apart from the obvious (coming up with a whacky/meaningless name to mimic Google, copying or approximating Google’s algorithm and even appearence), they’ve gone for the tried and tested: we’ll pump loads of money into advertising the product. Yeah, that’ll work.

Trouble is, that’s not really the way things DO work any more. Standing on an overturned milk-crate in the street shouting your message into people’s faces as they pass by is more likely to irritate than engage. And a message like ‘our results are clearer and more concise than other search engines’ really isn’t going to do it – people will judge that for themselves, and most commentators still find Bing slightly lacking compared to Google.

So what SHOULD Microsoft do? Well, for a start, it could find something a bit more emotive than ‘clear and concise’. That claim is debatable, and not exciting or engaging, or even interesting. Maybe it could try actively setting itself up as the anti-Google. It would need to be VERY upfront, admitting all past sins: “yeah, we’re no tiny independent, and we know we’ve hardly been a big champion for customer choice, but that’s in the past. The world has changed and so have we. Customers deserve choice.”  Try to make it COOL to ‘Bing it’, a form of rebellion. There is of course a huge danger of getting the tone completely wrong and being crucified for hypocrisy/evil corporate behaviour/monopolistic empire building, but if Microsoft get it right, don’t take it too seriously, and try to have fun, then they could win. It’s a very risky strategy, but then ‘clarity’ carries no risk, but very little chance of success either.

Then there’s the medium: it’s all very well making ‘3 TV ads and an integrated social media campaign’, but why not cut out the TV ads and associated huge media spend and really ramp up the social media. Develop user generated content. Take the campaign to the streets using guerilla marketing. Give people a reason to talk about the brand, rather than telling them what to think, and maybe they’ll actually start to engage.

Or just carry on spending millions on mass advertising and hoping for a decent response rate. Yeah, let’s stick with that. It’s safe.

This blog was originally published on my company website here.

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