Bing Goes Bonk: Lessons in Marketing from the Search Wars

Ian Lurie

So, Microsoft announces Bing. The world is about to change, the pundits say! This time our renamed technology will win, cries Ballmer! We’re spending $80 billion to make this thing win, dammit!
24 hours later, let’s take a look at the hottest terms on Twitter:
Wha? How did this happen (in my best Elmer Fudd voice)?
Bing is going bonk, and it’s not even out of the stable yet. Why? Because:

Microsoft still sells search like it sells Windows: In a box

Microsoft is selling Bing the way they sell their operating system:

  1. Crank up massive PR machine.
  2. Create logo using the most popular web colors.
  3. Crank up massive marketing machine.
  4. Release highly polished, on-message marketing video with attractive-yet-accessible actors and funny looking rodents.
  5. Repeat.

Oh, a couple other things:

  1. Ignore the fact that Google is having their developer conference right when you announce your search technology.
  2. Use 10 different names for the API, the search tool and the web site where the search tool is promoted, so I’m not sure if I’m developing on Decision Engine, Live 2.0, Silk Road, Bing, Bing Road, Bing Engine, Decision Engine Bing or whatever.

Google stomps all over them moments later

In comes Google. They focus on the developer community, telling us (yes, I’m still at least 49% developer) all the cool stuff we can build, and consolidating the Wave name around an API, a protocol and a tool.

Who’s going to win?

Microsoft marketed to reporters.
Google marketed to the developer community.
Who’s going to win? Who do you think?

I am not a Google fanboy

Understand: I am not a Google fan. I want someone to give them a serious run for their money. I want another search engine so my clients aren’t 70% dependent on the paid and unpaid traffic from one outlet.
But Microsoft ain’t gonna do it. This was their last shot.
Sorry guys.
While we wait for this drama to shake out, why not buy this book?:

Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at

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  1. Brutal critique. But an accurate one. Microsoft didn’t get a lot of buy in from developers and the people that really control the flow of the internet…and then Google opens their API on top of that? Smokefest.

  2. @SEO Rabbit Well yeah. Any change probably would. And Bing does look like an interesting technology. They built it on their Powerset acquisition, I’m sure. But that doesn’t change the fact that their marketing is ridiculously outdated, and that the long-term market share improvement will be negligible.

    Woz is astounded. Now that’s an endorsement. Woz is not a dummy, and he knows that if Bing turns out to be crap, all of his future “endorsements” will be laughable.
    But yes, besides that Bing will be marketed the old way and their only chance is the quality of the product itself about which we can’t say much now.
    However, I would love to see it work just so Google can perhaps become more transparent when dealing with webmasters and marketers. Besides that it sucks when Google refers 70% of your traffic, because that can go away, with no explanation or warning.
    This happens to people who are not even “gray hat”.

  4. As you say I think it is good that Google’s competition is stepping up to the mark whether Bing will do that is the question. I think after six months they should look at the statistics and carry out a paid online survey – compare the results and learn from it and come back stronger. I don’t think the current version is anything for Google to worry about.

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