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.
- 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.
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?