Microsoft's Bing Takes Chance On Custom Browser Toolbar Fledgling

Brand Thunder

Brand Thunder, which supports custom Firefox Web browsers, has inked a partnership with Microsoft that makes Bing the default search engine on all Brand Thunder products.

The agreement, which the companies plan to announce Tuesday, could increase Bing's presence on consumer desktops. Patrick Murphy, Brand Thunder chief executive officer, says about 30% of the people who download the Firefox Web browser become active users. Approximately 2 million have been downloaded since the company launched in April 2007.

Jumping on the back of brands like Dell, Hewlett-Packard or Motorola to become the default search engine on a laptop or mobile device could make all the difference in the world for a company. Every little bit helps to push Bing in front of consumers, Murphy says. "Google paid millions to Dell and HP to become the default search engine," he says. "Bing is a great search engine, but it's difficult to get people away from the mindset of googling something."

Americans conducted 15.2 billion searches, with Google sites accounting for 65.4% of search market share in January 2010, according to comScore. The market research firm reports that Microsoft sites grabbed 11.3% market share last month, up 0.6% compared with December.

Brand Thunder doesn't offer a browser add-on for Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) or Google Chrome -- not yet, anyway. The tool only works with the Firefox browser, and that's why Murphy gets excited when talking about the deal with Microsoft.

The browser add-ons are easy to install and marketing themes feature official logos, colors, images and style, plus content and functions extending the browser's capabilities into video, music or other Internet widgets.

The Web's splintered audience, a concept explained in a blog post on Brand Thunder's Web site, describes how the custom browser add-on can centralize fans of brands, although they may frequently visit Web sites scattered throughout the Web. An example from Brand Thunder Director of Marketing Kevin Dwinnell explains how a sports fan may visit a team's site and participate in a team's blog or community forum somewhere else on the Internet. Custom browser add-ons could bring those two locations together on the fan's desktop. That has been the goal from the start.

Murphy recalls Brand Thunder's first client for the custom Firefox browser add on: the National Hockey League (NHL) Washington Capitals. The toolbar had a basic theme pointing people back to the team's Web site. Initially, the browser toolbars ran Yahoo search, too, and most of the company's clients were related to sports.

Today the customer list continues to grow, expanding from sports into publishing and retail. Clients range from The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast to sports teams such as the National Hockey League's 2009 Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins and the 2009 SPL Champions Glasgow Rangers. Others include colleges and universities, such as the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, and corporate clients Comcast and Mercedes Benz.

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