Call it Microsoft Week (or weeks as the case may be). We’ll likely hear the name of the new search engine this week from the AllThingsD conference and next week, to coincide with SMX Advanced, the public will get a chance to actually use it.
While everyone who reads this blog will no doubt test drive the new engine (now called Kumo/Kiev) and form his or her own conclusions about how it compares to Google and Yahoo the larger question is whether it will make inroads with the broader public.
To notify that public about the new engine Microsoft will reportedly be spending lots of money (AdAge says $80 to $100 million) as part of a large-scale branding and marketing campaign. It doesn’t cite a source for those figures. AdAge also reports the brand will be “Bing”:
The software giant is set to launch an $80 million to $100 million campaign for Bing, the search engine it hopes will help it grab a bigger slice of the online ad market. That’s a big campaign — big compared with consumer-product launches ($50 million is considered a sizable budget for a national rollout) and very big when you consider that Google spent about $25 million on all its advertising last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence, with about $11.6 million of that focused on recruiting. Microsoft, by comparison, spent $361 million. Certainly Google has never faced an ad assault of anything like this magnitude.
JWT has been tapped for the push, which will include online, TV, print and radio. Another sign of the campaign’s size: At a time when most agencies are laying people off, JWT added creatives on the Microsoft business last week.
Danny speculated last week that the name would be Bing as well. People I’ve informally spoken with have had mixed reactions to the name. Some people have said that “Bing” sounds like “you got it” (or something similar). The co-founders of a rival search startup told me last week they actually like Kumo and felt that it already had some brand equity around it. But Kumo is not the brand if AdAge and other indications are accurate. (Nobody I spoke with informally brought up crooner Bing Crosby, which is a good thing for Microsoft.)
It will be fascinating to see the ad campaign roll out and how it tries to attack the search market, now all but synonymous with Google. I have put myself in the challenging position of ad execs trying to craft the campaign. It’s no easy task though I have some ideas.
The AdAge article reminds readers of the previous large-scale ad campaign for Ask, “The Algorithm.” There was lots of heated debate about that campaign but the consensus was that it was obscure and generally ineffective. Danny in his “Tough Love for Microsoft Search” post has discussed why he thinks traditional advertising is less effective than other forms of promotion (i.e., word of mouth, incentives). He also has embedded video of some humorous old search commercials in the post as well.
The larger problem for Ask most recently was that it wasn’t in fact a better search engine, despite the provocative Ask3D interface. In other words, the product was not as competitive on the “back end” as it perhaps should have been when the campaign ran. Indeed, the bottom line is the user experience, which is what will generate positive word of mouth. Microsoft is hoping that users like the interface (which has leaked out in several screenshots) but more importantly what it delivers. Fortunately we won’t have long to wait now to try it out.
There’s more discussion on Techmeme.