Microsoft Takes On Google with Bing Search

In recent months, Microsoft’s ads have tried to convince us that Apple computers are expensive and not worth the high price. Now, Microsoft is targeting Google’s search engine with its latest marketing campaign. The software giant is preparing to launch an $80 to $100 million ad campaign for Bing (previously known as Kumo). Bing is the company’s new search engine that Microsoft hopes will help it grab a larger portion of the online ad market.

An $80 to $100 million ad campaign is very sizeable. By comparison, Google spent only $25 million on all of its advertising last year according to TNS Media Intelligence; about $11.6 million of that budget was focused on recruiting. Generally speaking, $50 million is considered a sizable budget for a national consumer-product rollout. JWT will be working on the campaign which will include online, TV, print, and radio advertisements.

According to sources familiar with the project, the ads will not go after Google or Yahoo! by name. Instead, the ads will attempt to plant the idea that today’s search engines don’t work as well as consumers previously thought. By convincing consumers there could be something better out there, Microsoft hopes to entice users to consider switching search engines.

Convincing a user to switch search engines is no easy task. Research data has shown that about 65% of people are satisfied or very satisfied with online search. Microsoft’s search data suggests a potential opportunity however, since 42% of searches require refinement and 25% of clicks are for the back button.

Showing customers what they could be missing is a tactic that worked well for Apple with the iPhone. Before the iPhone was introduced, many people didn’t know what they were missing without a multi-touch screen or without an application that let them detect what song was playing. Through Apple’s ads, the company was able to show users how different the experience was and create a new standard for phones in the process.

While some may argue that only the product, or in this case the quality of search results, is what truly matters, that’s not necessarily true anymore. Today, the quality of search engines has approached parity. Even though there are no switching costs associated with changing search engines, many consumers have a distinct brand loyalty towards one engine over another. Google has even verified this with its own internal tests. During the tests, Google put its logo and treatment on another search engine’s results. In the end, users still preferred the Google-branded site even though the results displayed weren’t Google search results.

You may recall that made its debut in 2007 with a glowing review from The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg. Mossberg even went so far as to say that beat Google on some searches. Even with this positive press and the quality search results, is not as strong as Google is today.

Of course, that’s not to say that results don’t matter. You still have to have a product that backs up its claims. People who have seen Microsoft’s latest search engine say it is useful and has some valuable filtering tools. We don’t know how this one will end, but it will be interesting to see how this latest battle between Microsoft and Google in the search engine wars ends.