Posted May 26, 2009 9:39 am by with 8 comments

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Are you sure you’re using the best search engine available?

What if I told you that you, your friends, and your family spend almost half their time looking at search results that aren’t relevant?

What if I could show you a brand new search engine that has better results than the one you are currently using?

Would you want to try it?

Those questions are exactly the ones I’d ask consumers if I were in control of the estimated $80 million to $100 million Microsoft plans to spend on marketing its, yet to be launched, search engine.

We’re just days away from Microsoft releasing “Kumo” (the current working name) into the wild and for once, mounting an honest-to-goodness challenge to Google’s dominance. But, Microsoft can’t possibly expect something flashy and new to convince Google users to make the switch, so it needs to play the only trump card that it has.


Think about it. We’re all pretty much convinced that Google is the best search engine out there, but what if we were told that we’ve become brainwashed into thinking that? What if Microsoft took its research–that suggests 35% of users are unhappy with online search, and 42% refine their search query–and spun that into a campaign that places doubt in the mind of consumers? Are you really using the best search engine available? Don’t you owe it to yourself to make sure?


To you and I–marketers that can smell a soundbite from 100 yards–but not to the average web user. Think about how many people switched from MySpace to Facebook, simply because they’d heard that it was the place the “cool kids” were heading to. On the web, it’s not so much the wisdom of crowds, but the wisdom of sheep. Everyone else is using Google, so that’s the search engine I’m going to use.

Well, Google’s strength can also be its Achilles heel. Attack the herd mentality. Suggest that we’re not getting the very best search experience. Cause doubt to creep into our minds.

Microsoft is not going to convince anyone to make the switch unless it can convince us that we want to make the switch. It’s mind games, for sure, but if the recent launch of Wolfram Alpha has shown us anything, it’s that searchers are ready to try an alternative to Google. We’re ready to express our individuality and move on to the next big thing.

Microsoft doesn’t need to convince us that it has the best search solution. It merely needs to sow the seed of doubt in our minds as to whether Google really is the best.

  • Pingback: Why Microsoft Needs to Spend $100M to Make Us Doubt Google « wolfram alpha blog()

  • I don't think Microsoft can convince consumers by just throwing marketing and advertising money at the problem. I remember first hearing about Google and it wasn't because of advertising but yet because of word of mouth. People like Google because it is simple and effective. If Microsoft wants to compete they first need to develop a product that is just as good if not better than the experience Google gives. Too many search engines try to do too much and be too much.

    • While I agree that you need a better product, I don't believe that's enough to topple Google. Google is a super-brand and has fended off many search engines that “appear” to have better technology. I think you need both: better technology and a huge marketing budget.

  • Dean

    100M to fight a losing battle? Seems to me that would be a nice little down payment on a Yahoo! acquisition. I've said it a thousand times…the search engine battle is over (aside from Yahoo! and MSFT who will always be able to find a little market share) as market share bears that out.

    PS> I switched from MySpace to Facebook when the former became a haven for 14 year-old girls, bad rock bands, and pedophiles, not because it was where the “cool kids” were 😉

  • I agree – it seems like that would be the route to take. I'm interested in seeing what they actual do-do.

    I'm waiting for them to partner with an internet provider and offer a free connection for using their search engine. Not sure how the details would play out though.

  • Big D

    People left Myspace because it was ugly to look at, frustrating to use and rife with unwanted idiots and spammers. People moved to Facebook because it solved (most) of those problems.

    It had nothing to do with sheep mentality. People will leave Google when there is a better alternative. Simple as that.

  • Many people don't even know there are any other search engines (most even don't know the term “search engine”), so just showing them through advertising will hopefully give Bing (the new name for microsofts search engine) a bigger market share.

    It's always good to have more then one major player in a field.

  • cca

    Good point, I like the doubt idea.