Microsoft Bing Brand Decision

Microsoft brought Bing to market in early June of this year. I can only imagine all the time they spent debating the important decisions relating to their market introduction. One of these decisions was whether or not to associate Bing with the Microsoft brand, or let it stand on its’ own.

Usually when you have a strong brand (as Microsoft does), you leverage it as you introduce new products. Microsoft did not take this path. They are very much letting Bing be a stand-alone brand. Only time will tell whether this was the right decision.

Good or Bad?
I’ll start first with the cynical view (one of my personal favorites) of this decision. Microsoft chose not to associate Bing with their master brand. This may be because Microsoft is seen as some circles as the “evil empire.” A more likely, but still cynical reason may have been to distance itself from the failures of Microsoft search efforts and brands such as MSN, Windows Live and Live Search. Or perhaps the Microsoft brand is becoming too “old school”, too corporate or just too easy to overlook.

Now for the positive view. There are a lot of good reasons to let Bing stand on its’ own. For one, Microsoft is attempting to position Bing as a decision engine and not a search tool. This in itself is a mighty challenge, and having a strong brand will help in the effort.

Secondly, Microsoft is attempting to alter the category definition. If they can help the world see that they need something beyond a search tool and if they get them to buy into the thought process they actually need an advanced decision engine, then Microsoft may have an opportunity to change the market dynamics for Google.

Third, Microsoft is competing with a formidable competitor in Google. Amazingly Google has become a verb, and more amazing – a verb that my 70-something mother uses on regular basis. (It creeps me out every time.) It’s hard to picture someone using “Microsoft Live Search” as a verb but I can imagine people using Bing as an action word.

Is the Bing Brand Taking Hold?
In evaluating this topic I’ve discovered a few interesting things:

  • I conducted a totally unscientific and statistically unsound survey with my Facebook friends. (My apologies to Shaun, my statistician hero.) These friends vary from a geeky Silicon Valley crowd at one end of the spectrum to stay-at-home moms who are most concerned about nap schedules and feedings at the other end. Almost all of them are familiar with Bing, and 75% of them know it comes from Microsoft. Surprising to me, and impressive that their awareness is that high already.
  • Until a few days ago, when you searched Wikipedia for Bing you didn’t find it. Instead you found a barbershop in Germany, a Power Systems company in Germany and some info on Bing cherries.
  • News reports indicate Microsoft is spending between $80 and $100M on advertising Bing. This will help, but for the brand to truly stick, they need more than a hefty ad budget. They need a strong and persistent PR strategy, and they need the entire Microsoft employee-base behind it.

Time Will Tell
Good or bad decision? Time will tell. Are you going to start “Bing”ing info on the Web, or continue to Google? Let me know your thoughts.

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3 Responses to “Microsoft Bing Brand Decision”

  1. Thomas Emrich Says:

    Great topic.

    My initial thoughts are centered on two options across strategic intent. Interesting thing is that with either one, you reach the same conclusion….Bing should not be master branded or actively endorsed by the MS brand.

    Option One: MS is using Bing as a gambit in an effort to induce Google into looking at Chrome the same way.

    Option Two: There is method behind the compettive madness that might point to a degree of unspoken cooperation between MS and Google. MS needs Chrome to keep the SEC and Justice Department off their backs. Google needs Bing in the same way. They both could be trying to feign a competitive market and category, when most know the truth to be different.

    Under either option, Bing should be managed as as a stand-alone brand and any potential branding strategy needs to incorporate Google-centric considerations along with many others.

  2. Mike Ogden Says:

    I’ll stick with Google, although Bing keeps binging in on hotmail account. Walter Mossberg in his WSJ column didn’t see any compelling advantage offered by Bing.

    Should Microsoft be identified with Bing? That’s an interesting question and I think it’s changed since the global shift toward social media. Take cars. When Acura was launched, Honda could keep its name out. But today? Look at what’s happening with Starbucks and their top secret new store concept in Seattle? The blogosphere is killing them. What are they hiding? It’s a feeding frenzy with social networks

    If Constant Contact wants to pursue a new venture, they can keep them their name off it but I think the major trend toward transparency demands full disclosure.

  3. techwoo Says:

    Microsoft Bing Brand Decision .Thanks for nice post.I added to my twitter.

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