Microsoft Bing: WTF Kind of Launch Was That?!

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Microsoft has spent a reported $100 million to launch their new ‘decision engine’ Bing. I can appreciate their desire to go big with this product launch, but in the process they really dropped the ball on some great opportunities (and some alternatives). Yes, I am talking about the basics of content marketing.

With Bing, so far Microsoft has gone for big ad plays — TV, a Hulu live extravaganza, media buys. I won’t critique their advertising, I have no doubt that others are better equipped for that. They are obviously hoping to get some traction through major media outlets, but they haven’t laid the groundwork for their message to spread organically through online channels.

As one might expect, this created a one-day spike in users and an immediate drop. For a company claiming to be an expert in search, their marketing shows a complete failure to understand the principles that make search such a powerful tool.

Why not think like a technology company and use current technologies to engage and enable your audience to spread the good word themselves? The top-down approach seems to work, to an extent, for mega-branding campaigns, but what if you also planted some content grassroots and had a strategy to meet somewhere in the middle — on Bing.com? I don’t suppose that hiring an agency that uses search-resistant Flash for their own site would be the place to start if you had such a strategy.

6 Mistakes that a good content marketing strategy would have avoided

1. The Bing-A-Thon — Terrible content

    The B*A*T was a sweet concept. Hulu’s first live broadcast with an incentive for viewers: ad-free viewing of other shows. Use the live broadcast as an ad before viewing other shows. Engage a tech-forward audience in an inventive way.

However:

  • The content was unwatchable. Check out these bootlegged clips to see for yourself. From what I can tell on Twitter and Hulu’s comments, thumbs down is the consensus. Way to alienate a prime audience and associate your shiny new product with complete nonsense. A lot of eggs into a rotten basket.
  • You can’t watch the B*A*T after it aired. Um, that is what Hulu is for . . . The fact that they pumped all that advertising into a TV-like event without engaging and sharing that content with internet TV viewers immediately shows they don’t get it. People could use that content to spread the word, especially while the buzz is still out there.
  • And why not provide behind-the-scenes footage while you’re at it?

2. Twitter — Bad content strikes back

  • Bing actually has a decent Twitter audience of over 17,000.
  • Apparently they managed to get into trending topics with . . . the Bing-A-Thon. As I mentioned previously, that backfired. ‘Social media’ without quality content can be worse than not engaging the space at all.
  • I actually found one Microsoft employee on Twitter apologizing for the B*A*T, “Guys, Bing *actually* does work really well (this from a GOOG snob). Please disregard Bing-a-thon and focus on product. It will surprise you.” Translation: “Seriously guys, it’s very cool, I swear.”

3. Microsite — not engaging

Getting engaged traffic to a big expensive microsite is difficult for anybody. Discover Bing managed to discourage engagement even further with:

  • Clumsy design with dead-ending navigation.
  • Non-shareable, unengaging video.
  • Very long, non-shareable text. Not segmented into digestible bits.
  • Hurdle to watching some of the content (required Silverlight plugin).

4. Invented user needs — No product or content testing

Even though they are trying to position themselves in the David role vs. Google-iath, Microsoft opted for advertising content that concocts a story about what’s wrong with search today based on nebulous research. If you follow the subtext of their TV spots, Bing would have prevented the recession. They don’t engage their audience and aren’t able to make adjustments to market demand and user feedback. They drop it on top of us.

5. YouTube presence — Not fun at all

Bing is on there. But they certainly aren’t working to engage the audience with content.

  • The content doesn’t relate to the rest of the launch. It’s scripted developer talk forced shot like bad Direct Response. 180 degrees away from the irreverent B*A*T. And completely different than the TV spots.
  • The videos on YouTube are the same as on their microsite, but with no connection between them.
  • This content is very long and not engaging for an average user considering Bing.
  • In the case of this content, Microsoft is better off with the very low number of views.

The takeaway

People these days are not going to change their browsing habits because a new engine manages to “connect with people emotionally in the advertising.” People will change their habits only when they connect with the product itself. A good content marketing strategy would help people do this.

It’s not too late, Microsoft.

My questions to you

What do you think of Bing’s marketing strategy? What would you do differently?

13 Responses to “Microsoft Bing: WTF Kind of Launch Was That?!”

    • Andrew Davis

      Zach,
      Thanks for commenting! So glad you read Brett’s stuff. Your review is great! Keep up the good work.
      - Drew

  1. Ajit

    Warning: Diatribe ensues. Apologies do not, but should.

    WTF? is right! Great article, Brett. A friend of mine actually concepted and worked on the B*A*T. I was excited about it because I was excited for him, although I didn’t know what to expect. But also because I had gone to a social media conference about a year ago, and a Microsoft exec was there, and he made a statement at the conference that stuck with me: “Microsoft must make a drastic change, or it will die.”

    I was personally ready for a Microsoft reinvention. I was really looking for them to make contributions to the advancement of computing and technology. I was looking forward to Microsoft shedding their corporate image and being the tech representative of the everyman. It seemed to be what that exec was hinting at.

    But so far I’m woefully unconvinced. There hasn’t really been any sort of grassroots happenings or meaningful change on the community level. The ads seem more about market share and battling Apple than connecting with the customer. Their spends have been huge, their content awkward, and their connection minimal.

    At this point, their “If you can find a laptop for under $X you can keep it” campaign is just pissing me off. It would be like a cheap car manufacturer saying “If you can find a car under $10,000 you can keep it” and then have the customer say “BMW doesn’t really have anything for under $10,000, so I should disregard their contributions to automotive excellence completely.” That is my lone takeaway from that campaign. Parodies of that campaign are far more believable than the actual campaign itself.

    In any case, my use of Google at this point is hardly through the Google home page anymore. I mostly use it through browser integration, mashups,and other sites– their grassroots efforts… imagine that. And someone like Microsoft saying “you should go to Bing.com instead of ‘those other search engines’” is so irrelevant. Maybe I’m in a minority of the general populus who don’t go through the front door of the search engine. But the demo of the crowd they were going for with B*A*T using G4 and SNL personalities and Fred Willard seems like it should be people kinda like me. And it seemed VERY OBVIOUS to me that Olivia Munn and Jason Sudekis will probably never use Bing.com after the B*A*T was over. It really seemed like a 1-day spike is the best they could expect.

    Have you seen their IE8 internet ads? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjUzzxAKs20 I love the style of these ads, and they are very funny, but I would never dream of putting the responsibilities that they suggest on my browser. And I would never trust Microsoft with that responsibility. So awkward.

    Maybe Microsoft has too big a burden to prove to their stockholders or something. Like they have to get results NOW, because that’s how they are acting. I guess at this point, I’m kinda just hoping for the latter of the exec’s scenarios to happen already. I don’t think Microsoft will ever get it.

    • Andrew Davis

      Ajit,
      Wow! That was awesome! I’m so glad to see you contributing here. I am going to take a look at all of your links. I have not seen the IE8 advertisements so that needs a viewing.

      Your parallel the Microsoft advertisements and your car analogy is really clever. I plan on using that next time those ads come up.

      Thanks again for contributing.

  2. Ajit

    Oh my, the Bing! microsite is bad! Poor aesthetic, poor content, poor everything.

    From watching a couple of the videos, it seems the point is “Our research shows that people are dumb, right? So instead of working on ways to communicate with them and educate them, we should make a tool that caters to bottom-dwellers in the way they expect it to.” It’s like giving obese people free access to a fried buffet instead of educating them on the benefits of healthy living. Nice.

  3. L. R. Brock

    The very first thing that I’d like to note is the name “Bing”. It’s so obviously contrived and it reeks like it too. I believe that subconciously that people will feel antipathy towards the product because MS believes that it can get inside people’s minds with this contrived crap. Zune is the same way. Another very contrived name. I’m not sure if one should call these products posers or trend whores.

    They should have given it an honest sounding name (not too plain, mind you) that could resonate with people, not hyped it up, let it be itself and let people do the rest for you. Something like Live Search is too lifeless and has no spark. Bing is also lifeless for different reasons.

    Another thing to note about this crap is the amount of money they’ve pumped out to get people to notice it. I’ve noticed that bad products usually receive far more advertising, be it movies or video games. Why should my instincts tell me that Bing is a good product?

    • Andrew Davis

      Mr. Brock,

      Thank you so much for contributing. I’ve been hearing the radio commercials lately and you’re right the name Bing does feel very contrived and over thought. I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s Microsoft or because the names are legitimately over thought, but it does feel like they are trying way too hard.

      A mass marketing campaign does not seem like the right approach for helping people find a better search engine. In today’s world if you have a great product and the right content and network, people will find you organically. They have certainly spent a lot of money trying to convince us it’s a great search engine however, I don’t believe it.

      Thanks again for contributing.

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