Bing: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

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How do you enter the search-engine market when your competition is so well-established that its brand had become a widely used word meaning to search online?

That was Microsoft's marketing challenge with the introduction of its search engine brand Bing in the spring, led by Yusuf Mehdi, senior VP, Microsoft Online Audience Business.

"People thought about search engines about as much as they thought about tapping their fingers in a meeting -- that is, not much," said Danielle Tiedt, general manager of marketing in Mr. Mehdi's division.

The good news was that Microsoft research found an underlying "latent dissatisfaction with search." And so Microsoft began crafting its first phase of an estimated $100 million marketing blast for Bing, along with its agency JWT, which included a massive TV media blitz or "air cover," along with online display, search engine marketing, display, and direct response. The online media was just as aggressive as the TV media barrage and included takeovers of major sites such as The New York Times and MSNBC.

Brand integrations with TV talk shows including Rachel Maddow and Jimmy Fallon attempted to push marketing beyond the norm as a way to get Bing into the everyday conversation. A branded entertainment deal with "The Philanthropist" carried the theme further, with both TV spots and a storyline integration, as characters used Bing Maps to search the world and look for information. A sponsorship deal with MTV Networks shows including "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and "The George Lopez Show" gave consumers more content using a TV spot that "fast-forwarded" through several minutes of ads in just 30 seconds.

Social media also played an important role, allowing Microsoft to listen to what people were saying about Bing and respond. A photo contest where the winner's work was posted to the Bing home page brought 18,000 submissions in two weeks, and a Bing jingle contest garnered dozens of submissions and thousands of views. Mr. Mehdi recently announced (before Google) that Bing will soon begin indexing both Facebook and Twitter updates in real-time.

Yusuf Mehdi
Yusuf Mehdi, senior VP, online audience, Microsoft
Other important components to Microsoft's paid marketing plan were deals with Dell and HP to be the default browser on those PCs. Ms. Tiedt said those deals served two purposes -- to build the brand via well-established partners and to make Bing easy to use with its inclusion in the toolbars.

In June, Microsoft said visits to Bing were up 8%, and Ms. Tiedt said Microsoft research and tracking found that awareness and trials of Bing was more than double the initial goals. She said growth is steady every month, and they are "cautiously optimistic" for the future.

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