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Originally published June 4, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 4, 2009 at 5:13 PM

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With Bing, Microsoft marketing push aims to shift spotlight from Google

Microsoft has launched an ambitious marketing campaign to promote its new online search engine, Bing.

Seattle Times technology reporter

Like Kleenex and tissue, Xerox and copies, Jacuzzi and hot tubs, the brand name Google has become synonymous with search. It has long dominated the search market, claiming 64 percent of all searches in the U.S. in April.

Microsoft's slender slice measured only 8 percent in comparison, according to data from comScore.

Into this entrenched market, the Redmond software company Wednesday launched an ambitious ad campaign for Bing, its newly branded online-search engine.

Wednesday night, the company aired its first Bing TV commercial, needling Google for search-engine overload. Without actually naming Google, the ad highlights the frustrations of search — getting too many results or unrelated results.

"There's a lot of latent customer dissatisfaction with the search market," said Danielle Tiedt, general manager of marketing for online audience business at Microsoft. "The ad is aimed at how do we dramatize that."

Next week's ads imagine what it would be like if you asked your friends a question, and they responded as if they were a search engine.

In one ad, two women are eating at a sidewalk diner, and one says, "We really need to find a new place for breakfast." Her friend says, " 'The Breakfast Club,' a 1986 cult classic starring members of the Brat Pack." (The movie actually came out in 1985.)

Google said it welcomed the rivalry. "We welcome competition that helps deliver useful information to users and expands user choice," said Google spokesman Nate Tyler in a statement. "Having great competitors is a huge benefit to us and everyone in the search space — it makes us all work harder, and at the end of the day our users benefit from that."

Dean Crutchfield, an independent brand consultant based in New York, said Microsoft's decision to take on Google was like waging a land war across Asia.

"The fun of this is that Google is being drafted into a war they didn't create," he said. "Bing is going to have them on the run. It has done the research, has the insights of the frustration of being online."

Crutchfield says the ads are effective because they focus on "my experience, not the Web experience."

"Going through these mountains of results that are not relevant, picking on that is a good place to begin," he said.

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Qi Lu, president of Microsoft's online-services group, said the engineering behind Bing was focused on how to return results that fulfill the user's intent, rather than the search terms.

"What we would like to offer is rich and more organized user experience so we enable users to complete tasks more efficiently and make more informed decisions faster," Lu said Wednesday at SMX Advanced, an industry conference in Seattle.

To that end, the company has dubbed Bing a "decision engine."

News reports have pegged Microsoft's marketing budget at $80 million to $100 million, although company officials are not commenting on the figure.

It's clear Microsoft is putting significant resources and thought into this launch compared with its previous search products MSN and Live, which suffered from poor brand recognition and market share.

The company even held a Seattle launch event, beaming a searchlight into the sky Tuesday night and raising a flag atop the Space Needle to mark Bing's debut.

Over the summer, Microsoft plans to run radio ads, movie-theater spots at summer blockbusters, online ads, as well as product placement and television-show integration. The company has also launched a Facebook fan site and a Twitter account.

Microsoft's long-term goal is to move people away from Google to Bing, but short-term goals are more modest, according to the company.

"Sixty percent of people check multiple search engines every day," Tiedt said. "In the near term, getting a bigger share of people checking those search engines every day would be success."

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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