Can Bing Build a Brand?
This morning I attended Bing.com’s live demo webcast, now available on demand. Stefan Weitz, director of Bing Search, chatted about Microsoft’s new search product and quickly convinced me to give Bing a serious chance. Not only did Stefan charm me with his charismatic geekdom and genuine enthusiasm, but Bing, with its fancy new features and overall popularity, proved quite the charmer as well.
Of course, nothing exists in a vacuum. Shortly after my excitement reached a pitch and I started getting all evangelize-y on Bing’s behalf, a few less-than-favorable observations were brought to my attention. The most intriguing: Microsoft can’t rebrand itself because it’s Microsoft.
So, is Microsoft doing its product a disservice by giving it a new name?
Certainly Microsoft’s Live Search product had a bit of a conundrum on its hands before, as explained by Eric Hadley, general manager of Brand at Microsoft:
“We’ve created a lot of confusion amongst our search brands today, by moving from MSN to Live and not putting much emphasis behind the brand. Live Search and MSN Search have always been a piece of a bigger brand. We’re at the point now where we have a great product, but the brand is so important.”
In a video on DiscoverBing.com, Hadley makes this refreshing confession that Microsoft’s search product, up to now, has lived with an under-appreciated brand. This time around, Microsoft execs aren’t making the same mistake twice. No sir! This time the search engine is going to have a real brand, and people are going to hear about it, dangnabit! At least $80 million worth! Branding a new search engine is a worthy goal, but will almost definitely be a merciless challenge.
Photo by DDFic via Creative Commons
As Danny Sullivan points out in his analysis on Bing and the state of search, Google and Yahoo both started out as funny words that eventually took on a life of their own. Theoretically, Bing has the same potential for branding success. But we all know that lightning rarely strikes twice. Microsoft already has a magically delicious brand. How likely is it that they pull another ace from their sleeve?
Luckily for Microsoft, they can afford to staff the Bing campaign with the sharpest marketing minds. But, if the uninspired marketing campaigns of the past cast any light on expectations for the future, it’s going to take more than recycled “I’m a PC” slogans or Jerry Seinfeld to grab the already compromised attention of viewers.
Here’s a tip, Bing. When I introduce myself, there’s a good chance a stranger won’t remember my name. But if they remember my smile, then we’re off to a good start. Get it? It’s about the content, not the name. Lead with your bright and shiny features — like your airline fare predictor and shopping product filters — and let your name follow. If the product shines before the name takes hold, a brand can take on a life of its own reflecting all the good things it has to offer.