How Microsoft’s ‘Bing It On’ campaign could help Google’s brand in the long run

It’s a strange argument. Microsoft launches a campaign to show people the benefits of its Bing search engine, yet if the campaign succeeds, it may be of benefit to both Redmond and its bitter search rival Google. But how?

Microsoft has today launched, a site which compares the search pages of Bing and Google and asks users to rate the best results.

The contest lasts five rounds, with users told to select which results suited their needs, with a third ‘draw’ option available if the user couldn’t decide.

The site launches alongside a promotional video campaign featuring actor Dan Jones, who challenges members of the public to take the test.

According to survey results of 2000 British adults from Vision Critical, 53% preferred Bing, compared to 34% for Google and 13% who couldn’t decide. For single search queries, the results were closer, but still preferred Bing (39%) to Google (32%).

Brian Kealy, Microsoft UK head of Bing, said in a statement: “Our research reveals that a huge number of British people do things out of habit – 90% said they would be prepared to break their habit of a lifetime if it provided them with a new experience.

“We believe one such habit is using Google by default, so this campaign aims to show that consumers have a choice for the first time in a long time.

“We’ve made huge strides with Bing in recent years and Bing is now a genuine challenger to just ‘Googling’ it,” he added.

This leaves the two companies in an interesting position.

Of course, there is the standard economic theory which attests that competition in any business improves the quality of product which would keep the otherwise monopolistic organisation on its toes.

But in terms of branding – and more importantly semantics – how important is this development?

Why Google doesn’t like the verb ‘to Google’

The verb ‘to Google’ has been used as far back as 2003, according to a BBC article. Yet the company itself has a different approach.

Earlier this year, the search giant protested against a request from Sweden’s Language Council which proposed the word “ungoogleable” to be added to a list of new words meaning something that couldn’t be found on a search engine.

And that’s the problem. Google, perhaps understandably, wants people to use its company name as a verb only if they’re accessing Google. It’s not a catch-all for all search engines.

As Oxford Dictionaries Online puts it: “google v. [with object] Search for information about (someone or something) on the Internet using the search engine Google”.

Last year Matthew Swyers, founder of The Trademark Company, wrote an article for Inc expressing his fears over the proliferation of the verb ‘to Google’.

“Google should be very cautious about the use of its trademark in this manner,” he wrote. “In my opinion, in permitting this proliferation of use they have taken the first step down the road to the genericisation of their trademark, a step which should be curtailed.”

“This is the great paradox of famous brands,” he continued. “They want to become known by every consumer in the world, but not so well-known that they become synonymous for the class of goods or services they provide.”

All of this understandably leads to an uphill struggle for competitors in the search space, whether Google likes it or not.

Of course, nobody’s saying that the execs at Mountain View will be jumping for joy at reading news that more people prefer Bing’s search results.

But if a little healthy competition goes a long way to ensure that no further genericisation of Google’s brand will occur, then it might not be so bad after all.

The MarketingTech office gave Bing It On a go earlier – see what happened here. What do you make of the campaign?

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