Market research company comScore just released their February numbers, and it appears that Microsoft continues to gain market share, and principally at the expense of Yahoo. Bing’s share is now at 11.5% vs. 16.8% for Yahoo. Bing’s share in January was 10.7%. More importantly, though, Bing’s share has increased about 37% since its launch.
Search engine marketers should pay close attention to this trend, if they are not doing so already. If money is still being allocated across the search engines in the same percentages as several months ago or even last month, then campaigns will probably not be optimized. And if this trend continues, then this review process should also be ongoing.
Microsoft consistently scores well in its overall internet marketing efforts. It’s regularly has one or two videos in the top-10 viewing lists; it gets wide-ranging online news coverage; and it has large social networking interaction. But a close look at their traditional advertising campaigns shows where they are lacking.
Often, brand management’s marketing intentions are hidden on the internet because there are so many things going on at once and so many of them are outside of the control of them. However, in the offline world, where marketers have total control over their message and its distribution, their strategies and tactics become much more transparent.
And that’s where we see Microsoft’s strengths and weaknesses. Let’s look at three of their current campaigns.
- Bing – I actually like this campaign a lot. It stakes out a brand position for Bing vs. Google – Bing is a “Decision Engine”, not a search engine. And it tries to make the claim that there is too much clutter in results pages with search as we know it, but not so with Bing. Microsoft has a number of hurdles to overcome with their product vs. Google and with Google’s overall presence, but at least they have focused their product design and their marketing effort around a grounded brand position.
- Windows 7 – I don’t know what to say about this. What is their brand position? What is their message? People are PCs? People designed Windows 7 while showering? (And of course, who can forget those memorable Windows 7 launch parties that they promoted?) Contrast their ads to Apple’s. Enough said.
- Xbox – For a company locked in a major battle for supremacy in the gaming console business, Microsoft has been relatively quiet on this front. Their gaming division is finally profitable and they have a great product, especially with their Xbox Live service. I would think that now’s the time to ramp up their efforts. No effort is sometimes worse than bad effort.
After Microsoft announced Bing a few months ago, it began increasing market share. However, its string of increases halted in September. Microsoft now has its work cut out for it to get more share.
One of Microsoft’s biggest challenges will be what turns out to be one of Google’s smartest moves – the Google search toolbar. More and more people today don’t bother going to Google’s home page to begin their searches. Rather, they just type their search request into the Google search toolbar from whatever page they are on. Virtually nobody who searches this way is interested in going back to the old procedure of jumping to an explicit search page – it’s wasted navigation. So, the share of the market who uses the toolbar is not even in play for Microsoft to win over. Unless Microsoft comes up with a strategy to address these people, they will be fighting an increasingly difficult war.
According to Nielsen, Microsoft’s Bing dramatically increased its share of the search market in August, increasing over 22% compared to July. Moreover, it appears that Microsoft’s gain was principally at Yahoo’s expense.
This brings several thoughts to mind.
- It appears that at least one reason for Microsoft’s success was their broadbased, aggressive advertising campaign, involving both new and old media. All marketers should take notice – aggressive advertising can still be a potent tool.
- Yahoo should seriously consider a plan “B” in case their search deal with Microsoft does not go through. Even if Federal regulators do eventually approve the deal, if that process takes too long and Yahoo keeps losing share to Bing, then Microsoft might not be as interesting in completing it – at least not at the original price.
- Although Google has not yet been affected by Bing’s success, they should not get too complacent. Microsoftstill has a number of salvos in their attack. They just released their “Visual Search” feature for Bing and their are rumors of an upcoming Bing 2.0.