Microsoft’s Bing – Marketing Communications

Microsoft is a U.S. computer software firm, founded in 1975 by the legendary Bill Gates.  One of Microsoft’s products is Bing, an internet search engine that was launched back in 2009. Initialy, the vast majority of consumers – particularly the less tech-savvy – felt no need to switch from Google.  However, Bing’s market share has now grown to a respectable 17.9%, while Google has remained at a dominant 67%.  Microsoft’s next marketing strategy is to steal disloyal Google users in an attempt to gain further ground on Google’s share.  Part of this strategy is a campaign called ‘Bing It On’.

As part of Microsoft’s market challenger strategy, the aim of the campaign is to convert Google (the market leader) users to Bing users.  Google consumers are encouraged – through social media marketing and online public relations – to visit http://www.bingiton.com.  On the website visitors are asked to make five searches and vote each time for which results they prefer.  Importantly, these results are unbranded, which should mean that visitors are unbiased in their voting.  At the end of the experiment, their results are shown, identifying the users favorite search engine.

There are, unfortunately, a number of flaws with this test: previously visited links are purple, slight forms of branding are visible – such as Bing maps – and lastly users are likely to search for their interests and therefore roughly know how Google displays those results.  As a result of this, the implementation of this communications tactic is less than ideal.

Having said that, in terms of marketing strategy this is a very clever idea.  Just to reiterate: it is the implementation that has reduced the likely effectiveness of this tactic in changing consumer behavior.  In true, Manifested Marketing style, lets take a look at a strategic model that shows why this is a good communications campaign in theory.

 

There are four types of buying behavior:

Complex Buying Behavior this occurs when the consumer perceives there to be lots of differences between brands along with a highly involved information search.  Hence, the buyer searches extensively for information on the available brands before making a purchase.  An example of this would be shopping for a car.

Dissonance Reducing Buying Behavior in this case there is not perceived to be any meaningful difference in brands by the consumer, yet still undergo a high involvement information search.  This is because the consumer fears making a purchase they will later regret and similarity between brands makes it hard to find a suitable product.  An example of this would be purchasing a carpet.

Variety-Seeking Behavior – this behavior is present when there are differences between brands, yet the purchase is not risky enough to warrant an extensive information search.  Consumers are likely to demonstrate this when buying confectionery.

Habitual Buying Behaviorlastly, when consumers see very little difference in available brands, there is minimal risk and no information search, they are likely to buy the product out of habit.  This is the type of Google user Microsoft’s Chief Envisioning Officer, Dave Coplin, is aiming to ‘steal’ from Google.

By engaging consumers, and making them think about the search engine they are using, Microsoft intends for consumers to realize that there are differences between Bing and Google.  Consequently, anyone with little brand loyalty to Google is likely to switch from habitual buying behavior to variety-seeking buying behavior.  This would result in Bing gaining a larger market share from ex-habitual buyers now using Bing on some occasions.

I believe this is a much more realistic prediction of consumer behavior than hoping Google users will ‘kick the habit’ and jump straight to using Bing exclusively.  As search engine choice is a low involvement decision, social judgement theory states consumers should have a wider latitude of acceptance – this means they will believe a greater variety of opinions.  Despite this, media attention of the campaign – particularly from the Freakonomics Blog – have harmed its reputation.  Thus consumers are now skeptical about believing Bing’s claims on user preference, which damages the credibility of the Bing It On website. The overall effectiveness of the campaign is thus undermined.

Despite the shoddy implementation, I think that this campaign is a step in the right direction for what Microsoft’s marketing strategy needs to be in order to grow Bing’s user base.  Specifically, I think they should use their second user advantage to watch Google closely and then introduce futher  Bing features over time to differentiate themselves.  I believe this is far more likely to be successful than Microsoft’s past strategy of duplicating Google’s services.

If you have taken the Bing It On challenge, let me know your results and search engine preference in the comments below!

© Josh Blatchford, author of Manifested Marketing, 12/10/2013

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Small vs Large Firms – Direct Marketing

Direct Marketing concerns any form of publicising of a company through a channel that immediately reaches the customer and/or consumer of a product; but the form of Direct Marketing this post will focus on is Direct Mailing. Yeah, a posh name for junk mailing and leafleting. Despite being infamous, however, it is a hugely successful form of marketing and a common feature of Promotional Mixes – although is this strategy more beneficial to large or small businesses?

As a cheap method – low overheads, requires no specialist skills, easy to implement – this is a popular strategy for small or new businesses wishing to gain a foothold in the local market, for instance take-away restaurants delivering menus. The benefits are obvious: not only does targeting specific local residents increase return on investment, small businesses often lack the working capital to afford mainstream promotional channels. Marketing is always the first place short-cuts are taken in budgeting; small firms need to adopt a cost-minimisation attitude to all areas of their business, while simultaneously promoting themsleves in what is often a very competitive local market, a monoplositic market for instance. In addition to this, delivery is likely to be done by the owners in their spare time. This increases the, albeit low, chances of being read as it is not bundled in with other junk mail – like larger companies who outsource the nitty-gritty marketing jobs to the Royal Mail or leaflet distribution companies.

But this is a strategy widely adopted by large companies too – even PLCs. Although their marketing is not as likely to be as efficient in geographically targeting market segments as small firms, they are more likely to be effective at targeting consumers with other similar characteristics, like buying habits. Larger firms benefit from one of many economies of scale: the ability to purchase expensive, well-targeted mailing lists from third-parties or even use internal information management to produce their own mailing lists. This means that their return on investment is increased; however, in comparison to other aspects of the Promotional Mix – where large firms often diversify themselves – this will still remain low. Yet, larger firms can afford to outsource the designs of leaflets to a professional, external company – there will be no cheesy Microsoft Publisher advertisements that severely undermine’s small firms chances improving their PR among consumers.

However who will benefit more from direct marketing? The answer: small businesses. Although this depends entirely on what the company objectives are, because it is more likely to form an important role in the Promotional Mix – and therefore vital to success – smaller firms are thus better placed to concentrate their resources. While, on the other hand, larger companies may not fully utilise the potential of direct marketing if they are too busy with other elements of their Promotional Mix – a diseconomy of scale. Hence, marketing management once again proves to be mission-critical.

The World Cup – Responsive Marketing

It has now been a few days since England were knocked out of the World Cup, giving businesses plenty of time to respond to an unexpected (albeit not surprising?) early exit by England – or, incontrast, show how unresponsive they truely are. Ultimately, the more responsive marketing is, the more effective it is on a tactical level, which means the long-term marketing strategy is more likely to be achieved.

The advertisement, above, in today’s ‘Times’ newspaper, made me chuckle slightly. Although, I don’t need glasses and in no way will the advertisement provide a good ROI, it’s still effective for PR; it has furthermore lead me to blog about it. ‘Specsavers’, satire FIFA’s claims that goal line technology is too expensive, despite the level of anger over Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany. Also, it is some what impressive to think within a few days their marketing team has come up with a humourous caption, designed the page and got it to ‘The Times’ in time to be printed and distributed all over the United Kingdom. This will pay huge dividends in PR, unlike a more lethargic response from ‘Marks and Spencers’

Above is a screenshot from ‘Marks and Spencers” England Team/FA clothing range product line website, again a few days after England’s World Cup departure – a prime example unresponsiveness. Although one cannot expect a major retailer to completely ditch a product line, it would not be unreasonable for their website, which could be updated in hours, to at least acknowledge the recent changes. In order to ditch the now-worthless stock, I should be seeing price promotions left, right and centre – still, you would have to be an idiot to buy an FA suit, even if England were still in the World Cup. Not only has ‘Marks and Spencers” use of celebrity endorsements back-fired – as they are now symbolised by over-valued players who fail to deliver, which can transcend to their products – their PR efforts are also undermined. The shelves of England products will remind customers of their disappointment, where as ‘Specsavers’ humours them. ‘Marks and Spencers’ need repsonisive price-cuts and a change of target market from football fans to, perhaps, Cricket, Tennis – albeit Andy Murray is Scottish; or Formula One followers. If one company can produce an advertisement in a few days time, another could design a new price tag.

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