Ad Age reports that Microsoft is ready to spend $80M to try and turn people's attention away from Google, the dominant search market leader, and toward Bing, Microsoft's latest search engine offering. Much like Microsoft's attempts last summer to prop up Vista, trying to turn consumers to a new product from an old company, using advertising is a flawed approach and in my view won't change consumer habits even if it turns out that the new offering is really good.
State of the Market
According to Comscore, Google holds a commanding lead in the search market with 64.2 percent of total searches in April. That was actually up from March. Yahoo! is the next closest with 20.4 percent, down a tick from March, and way back in the pack is Microsoft with a paltry 8.2 percent of the market.
Think about that for a moment. Even if Microsoft bought Yahoo! as was widely discussed last year (and as I wrote about in Microsoft and Yahoo! Attempt to Kiss and Make Up), the combined companies would not even reach a 30 percent share and Google would still have more than double its closest competitor. Right now, its not even that close.
Bada Bing Bada Bang
The newest offering is expected according to several reports to be released in the next week and called Bing. Can Bing help Microsoft gain a substantial share of the consumer web search market? Chances are it can't and it doesn't even matter if it's good. As Ad Age points out, Ask came out with a great search engine a couple of years ago and the end result was a substantial loss in market share:
Or consider that a revamped Ask.com made its debut in 2007 to a glowing review from The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, who said it "holds its own with Google, and even beats the champ on some searches." Two years later? Ask's share of search is down 28%.
Money Can't Buy You Love
Once again Microsoft is trying to use its money to change minds as it has done with the Apple Ad Wars campaign (which I've written about extensively including Apple Fires Back in Latest Round of Ad Wars). Throughout the last year Microsoft has attempted to buy the hearts and minds of consumers through advertising. It's an old way of trying to win market, and even if it was wildly successful (which I don't think is going to happen), it likely won't come close to justifying an investment that large. If Microsoft doubts this, they need look no further than Ask, which Ad Age reports spent tons of money on ads and got nothing back:
Ask.com famously spent $57 million in 2007 to market its engine, and another $22 million last year, according to TNS.
Ad Age states that the new attacks on Apple are making an impact on perception of the Apple value proposition, but that is likely to last only as long as the recession. In the end, advertising doesn't drive market share. Quality and market perception does, and Ask has proven that quality doesn't necessarily mean success.
You need to get thought leaders excited. You need to get people talking on social networks. You have to subtly extend your message. Trying to force your message down the throats of consumers is old world. Letting consumers carry your message is far more powerful. Microsoft hasn't caught onto the new way of doing business, and would rather throw money at the problem, which in the end is probably throwing good money after bad.