Commentary

Crossing Google's Chasm: Three Bing Blunders

Preeee-SEN-tiiiing... Bing! Guaranteed to leap tall queries in a single bound, anticipate your every search need, and fulfill your every online desire.

 

(I'm giggling as I remember Marge Simpson saying, "And all this time I thought Googling yourself meant the other thing!")

Microsoft is hoping, of course, that Bing will wipe out Google's dominance in one fell swoop. That, next month, their $80 million ad campaign will cause their 8% market share to morph into 80%. That they'll finally be able to put that pesky Google decade behind them.

They won't, of course. They won't because they seem to be forgetting some key fundamentals of the space in which they operate.

Fundamental #1: The bulk of Google users feel no pain.

How many times do we have to hear this before it sinks in? Your product or service has to make your customer's pain go away. But wait! I hear you cry. What pain did Facebook soothe? What pain did Twitter soothe? Yes, in those cases, we didn't realize that we were in pain to begin with. But once an industry is established -- as search is -- it should be pretty well apparent where the pain is. And let's face it: the vast majority of Google users, the ones who aren't reading this column and who think A/B refers to the beginning of the alphabet, those people are not in pain when it comes to search. They're certainly not in any kind of pain that Bing will fix.

Fundamental #2: Eat your elephant one bite at a time.

Microsoft is massive, but when it comes to search, they're just tiny Davids next to Goliath Google. So what makes them think that, after so many failed tries, that an all-or-nothing, mass-market-blitz approach is the way to go?

In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore makes a compelling case for the beachhead strategy. When you're up against a formidable enemy, he argues, you need to tackle the smallest vertical you can find, as long as it has the potential to lead to your bigger target. Wolfram Alpha is doing this well right now, with their "smartest-people-in-the-room'" and "we're-not-even-a-search-engine'" positioning. Bing is not.

Fundamental #3: The market that matters doesn't care about features.

I love all these reviews where people run searches side-by-side on Bing and Google to determine which is "better." And, to be fair to the folks in Redmond, lots of verdicts have come down on the side of the new guy. But back to Crossing the Chasm: you and I are not the market that matters.

The market that matters is our grandmothers and our mothers and our friends who've known us for twenty years and still don't understand what we do for a living.

At most, the market that matters changes one online habit per year. When you were first telling them about Google, they were saying, "I've finally started emailing -- don't confuse me!" When it comes to switching search engines, you've got one shot, and that one shot is the aggregation of thousands of reminders, building up over time into an inexorable force that even they cannot resist.

This market does not want to experiment, no matter how good the commercial. This market wants to know that once they put the effort into learning a new habit, they can sit back and rest for a few years. You must be exhausted from learning that newfangled search engine, dear. Have a cup of tea and a lie-down.

Back to behavioral basics, Bing. I admire how smart your new search engine is --- but I don't think it's going to help you cross the Google chasm.

14 comments about "Crossing Google's Chasm: Three Bing Blunders".
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  1. Shelly Kramer from V3 Integrated Marketing, June 9, 2009 at 10:15 a.m.

    Kaila,

    I found myself nodding my head, saying "yes, yesssss" as I read this article. You are spot-on, my friend and are addressing an issue that marketers so often overlook. WE are not the target audience. We GET change and are excited by it. The masses like to go infinitely more slowly, then have a cup of tea and lie down. Great job! Loved it.

  2. Louis Wing, June 9, 2009 at 10:17 a.m.

    But It's Not Google (B.I.N.G.)

  3. Linda Nawrocki from Optiem, June 9, 2009 at 10:19 a.m.

    I would disagree that MS thinks this product is going to knock Google off with one fell swoop. How does anyone know what MS is thinking?

    Personally, it tends to be an arrogant organization (and Google is looking more like that every day). Did anyone ever think MS wants to regain market share and be 'respected' by the search world instead of being a laughing stock.

    Don't forget, it is the search marketers who hold the budget strings that allow profit and innovation.

  4. Mike Weber from CMR Studios, June 9, 2009 at 10:25 a.m.

    While Microsoft has deep pockets to support getting Bing a share of the market, Google is established as the iconic Kleenex of search engines. Others will just have to pull out their tissues and weep over the money spent to capture users. I don't know how much money it would take to make "Bing it" as common as "Google it", and that may not be the best investment.

    Besides, I keep thinking of Chandler on Friends.

  5. Michael Behrens from WebMetro, June 9, 2009 at 10:53 a.m.

    I am not sure #1 is accurate. How do we explain the fact that 40% + off all search queries are refined? Search engines do not do a very good job understanding intent. Although Google has done this task better than either Yahoo or MSN, the fact that there is a fundamental deficiency does provide the opportunity for a major shift in market share.

    My favorite example is a query for "Who is the President of the USA?" Check Bing vs. Google

  6. Michael Martinez from Xenite.Org, June 9, 2009 at 11:15 a.m.

    Your analysis is flawed because you're obviously following the obsolete metrics published by companies like Nielsen, comScore, Compete, and Hitwise in their monthly search market share metrics.

    These metrics are based on "number of queries performed", which tells us absolutely nothing useful about search market share.

    Publicly available data from Quantcast and Compete shows that as many as 100 million people use Microsoft search each month -- more than use Yahoo! search (now down to about 60 million monthly users).

    By contrast, Quantcast and Compete's services estimate no more than about 140 million people use Google search each month.

    A truly useful metric would be how many people each search service refers to other sites every month, but that data is not publicly available.

    Nonetheless, Microsoft is breathing down Google's neck and has been for a year. They are definitely poised to challenge Google, whose real market share is less than 40%.

    The quality of Google's search results continues to decline as they adjust their algorithms to favor AdSense-bearing, autogenerated large content sites instead of more relevant and informative sites.

  7. Chris Gale from Datapop, June 9, 2009 at 11:30 a.m.

    This Bing vs. Google issue reminds me of the Pepsi challenge... Remind me who is on top in the Cola market? Ahhh yes, it's still Coke.

  8. Bruce McDermott from Atom Valley, June 9, 2009 at 11:30 a.m.

    Sorry, I can't agree. I'm already starting to see chips in Google's armor as more key executives leave. And as far as pain to the public, Google is the most invasive company on the face of the planet, and believe me it's starting to get noticed on a national level. Ad revenues are way down with the recession and their latest gaff called quality score, layoffs are occurring at the plex, and many perks like the ability for employees to create additional apps on their off time are approaching the chopping block. This isn't FUD, it's what's happening.

    It may not be Bing that takes the crown, but there are a slew of search engines coming along that have none of "the pain" associated with the overweight arrogant Google. ...Like my current favorite from MIT.. Yauba. It nails the result I'm looking for every time and seems to be vastly superior to Google in every possible way.

    With Bing, MS knows the key is Publicity/Advertising. They're not stupid. They have been providing us with less than sterling software for ages, and they have maintained their dominance solely through advertising, support, and simple/common interfaces. Bing is already taking market share away from Yahoo. Don't ever assume Google is here forever. If PPC tanks, Google follows it right into oblivion.

    Links:
    http://tinyurl.com/d2dtjr (execs leave Google)
    http://tinyurl.com/dktp7u (Google fails in privacy)
    (PDF) http://www2009.org/proceedings/pdf/p541.pdf (how they track us with servers and gmail)
    http://tinyurl.com/mpny8j (Quality score pitfalls)
    http://www.yauba.com (The best of search)

  9. Matthew Mcmahon from Thrivepoint, June 9, 2009 at 12:28 p.m.

    As I read it, the BING strategy seems to be all about the beach head. They are proactively targeting four verticals that they think they can be better than Google at: Ecommerce, Travel, Health and Local.

  10. Mai Kok from So What, June 9, 2009 at 2:28 p.m.

    I couldn't disagree more with your incredibly failed analysis.

    #1 - you base your first point on the lack of "pain". This is sales talk, not marketing talk. This kind of sales talk is also PUSH sales or push marketing, as it were. That kind of sales talk also is predicated on a product or service that a target audience PAYS for. There is NO $/cost pain to switch from Google to Bing. There may, however, be a $/cost pain for advertisers switching from Google to Bing. If that was your angle, I would have thought you were insightful. As it were, I just think you're a clown.

    #2 - Microsoft is massive. ABSOLUTELY massive. Their market value is much larger than Google. They have the deep guns to wage a war of attrition IF they wanted to. But that, in a public company, is NOT a good use of shareholder investment and does not bring shareholder value. Google likewise cannot sit idly by and rest on its laurels, else it too loses shareholder value. Microsoft, after all, has the resources to BUY YAHOO. Don't ever forget that. Like the Union vs. Confederates, the resources of MSFT is larger and deeper than GOOG. GOOG cannot suffer as much brain drain as MSFT, and Google's brain hive is its prize.

    MSFT also does not have to chomp at GOOG. MSFT can easily divide and conquer YHOO. Which, in all logic, would be the best strategy. Go after the sick, weak, and slow of the herd - then go after the strong. YHOO is the one that stands to lose because its market share is vulnerable to erosion.

    #3 - Most importantly flawed in your analysis is that you somehow assume this search industry space is immutable. It is not. The key isn't search. The key is who can deliver the best user experience and give the user the most control. Google is pioneering that and that's why it stays well in control. But should MSFT finally get it and embrace more user control (that is, user control of consumption of information), then MSFT can definitely make a dent - a big dent - in GOOG's market share.

    The adoption of Bing by search users is not the issue. If enough people are used to it and like the search experience, they'll keep using it.

    The issue is can MSFT build enough user share to warrant advertisers to funnel more advertising $$$ to Bing. Google is the powerhouse that it is because of AdWords. That is, by and large, GOOG's revenue stream. Without it, GOOG has nothing.

    MSFT has plenty of diversified revenue streams. But search has to work in order to make it worthwhile. Does MSFT have enough patience to make Bing work? Does it's plan include a war of attrition to slowly erod YHOO and GOOG's market share. If Bing can claim 10% and then 15% market share, that's a huge increase for them. That can translate into $ millions more a year in advertising revenue. Increase like that, with subsequent decrease in YHOO - could significantly shift the search industry paradigm. YHOO may not be able to sustain itself if it loses much more market share.

    So Kaila, don't get snooty with Google. There are many who come and claim they are the next Google killer and have failed - Cuil from former Googlers comes to mind. But Bing is not the one touting its own horns. Others using it are. And as long as the masses are saying - Bing isn't bad. It's good, we'll wait to see improvements, but it's good so far - as long as that is being said, then Bing has hope of taking deeper root.

  11. Aaron Burcell from SmartyCard, June 9, 2009 at 6:40 p.m.

    Argument #3 cuts two ways... the market that matters doesn't appreciate Google as a business or feature/functionality. No one in that category gives Google any money, but they give Microsoft money on a regular basis for software. They like their WinPC. They trust the Microsoft brand. They also know that search results on popular topics are an open-market maze of confusing, out-of-context garbage. And, that customer also appreciates good TV ads. The Bing ads resonate, and they don't try to do too much because they're a part of a long, sustained media campaign.
    Microsoft has a diversified revenue base that enables them to fund a marketing war of attrition. Google does one thing -- ads. They've never been to war. My money is on Microsoft if this becomes a marketing war.

  12. Andre Szykier from maps capital management, June 9, 2009 at 7:23 p.m.

    Keep in mind that MSFT's purchase of AdECN is part of their core strategy of monetizing their search engine.

    AdECN, originally developed as a superfast ad auction pricing system, could improve vertical or category searches as mentioned by respondents here.

    It can allow Bing to deliver a more robust and stochastic pricing engine for key words and/or content types. I just wish they would buy Vivismo (Clusty) and create a multi-dimensional rather than hierarchical search results engine.

    I bet Bill Herschel, former CEO of AdECN, now managing a couple of hundred engineers working on Bing and paid search, are moving in that direction.

  13. Stuart Long, June 10, 2009 at 2:34 a.m.

    Google is only 11 years old. Eleven years ago nobody on earth had a MySpace profile, sent a Twit or spoke on an iPhone. The term "blogging" had only been around for one year when Google got off the ground. 2009 is still pretty early in the game and market share can shift and change quickly in the technology sector. There are still millions of people in the USA who have never been online. Because both services require no commitment (monetary or otherwise) from their users, loyalty should be very ephemeral. Better search results will allow Microsoft to gain in market share and profit from the shift. GM used to be a giant, things change and Bing might just be a game changer.

  14. Steve Gaines, June 10, 2009 at 6:36 a.m.

    I'm slightly amused by the number of commenters who almost come off as having Googlenvy or are Googleangry. Point #1 you make Kaila, is the one that matters most. The pain factor. Google is so ubiquitous in its total dominance of search that is a everyday word.

    Techies may be mired in figuring out that Google is dysfunctional, but the world is made up of not-so-techies who simply google what they're looking for without ever giving a second thought as to whether or not there's a different alternative to search. As one of those, I really don't care. I'm just looking for an answer to a question or a need.

    Microsoft is, without question, HUGE and hugely successful at its core business. But McDonalds, as huge and hugely successful as they are, still can't sell pizza.

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