Can Microsoft's Bing Be the Brand-Builder It's Looking For?

Danny Sullivan on Search Marketing

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Microsoft's new search engine is expected to launch any day now, with new bells and whistles that have leaked out in screenshots. But perhaps more important than any new feature is whether Microsoft's new brand name for its search engine -- Bing -- will take off with consumers.

Bing? Who's that going to resonate with? Well, 10 years ago, Google sounded pretty weird, not to mention Yahoo 15 years before that. It's not so much as what's in the name as what you build behind it that will turn the name into a brand with positive perceptions.

Danny Sullivan
Photo: Jason Meyer
Danny Sullivan has been covering the search-marketing industry for more than a decade and is editor in chief of SearchEngineLand.com.
When I'm in a store, like many others, I'm naturally attracted to some brands over others. Advertising has built recognition of these products and subconsciously created a sense that they must stand out in some way. I'm also influenced by the word-of-mouth I've heard about a brand. And if I've tried a new brand and liked it, now I have a relationship that grows. If I've had a bad experience, that brand can become dead to me.

I honestly don't find that much difference between Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, but I'm more of a Coke person, having consumed that brand more. Firefox and Google's Chrome are both good browsers with similar capabilities, but Firefox has served me well, so I stick with it.

When it comes to the major search engines, they all generally work the same and serve users just as well. Pick a particular query or some particular feature, and you can "prove" that one is better than the other.

Moreover, take the search results from Yahoo or Microsoft and put Google's logo and look on them, and consumers will tell you the results are better than Google's own unbranded listings. It's true -- the folks at Microsoft and Yahoo will tell you they've found this, from their testing.

Despite rumblings about "monopoly" status or privacy concerns, the average consumer simply knows that they consistently use Google to find what they want. They're not looking for a game changer, when the game works well enough for them.

That's the challenge Microsoft faces, and that's why brand-building is so important. The old brand of "Live Search" never seemed to resonate with searchers. Bing is a fresh start. The launch will attract people; the new features might catch some eyes, but it's unlikely to be an overnight sensation.

The product behind the brand matters. Microsoft has a good product -- but so does Google. And Google's also got the brand.

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