Microsoft has just hired JWT for the launch of a new search product. Annualized account billings are estimated at US$100 million and initial media spending will be around $40 million. Microsoft plans to launch the ad effort this summer. OK wait a second, is this a branding problem? I can imagine how the market research is telling them that people don’t think Microsoft as a search company, fair enough. But that doesn’t mean you should just go out and spend a 100 million bucks and that problem will go away. Microsoft is not a search company. Period. Who are you kidding? It is not that the Microsoft brand is bad, it is a powerful brand in many ways, but it needs to rethink its search strategy.
Google has become synonymous with search and that has made it virtually impossible for anyone trying to take on the space. And clearly Microsoft hasn't helped its case by pitching its search and online properties under a host of different brand names. Google owns ‘search’ as much as Microsoft owns ‘office’, I don’t see Goggle spending millions marketing their ‘office’ suite brand. Microsoft does have a branding problem, but it is not search, it needs brand architecture.
But Microsoft has been throwing money at the search game for years now and not yielding any results. I was working very closely with a ‘search’ client of mine for a while and since then there’s only evolutionary change. No one comes close to challenge Google. Now Yahoo is almost out of the picture. I have not seen any leapfrog thinking, things like Live Search Cashback and others didn’t really work. They need a breakthrough idea, before they think branding. Twitter?
Twitter is rolling out its integrated search and trends into the web platform (not sure if this is dressing up for sale thing). They had been testing it for quite a while. Twitter purchased Summize last summer, it has been keeping search and trends separate from the messaging platform until now. Sure the long term view is to integrate the two. Twitter needs to go mainstream and create new features, search is one of them.
For Microsoft, not only they need to have differentiated features for the search product, they also need a brand. I don’t mean a logo or tagline or an ad. I mean a good user experience. The UX is the brand. Not the advertising. The way users feel about their experience is inseparable from the way they feel about your brand. Let's hope that the Microsof search product is so good that it justify the advertising investments. Well, with $100mm, you have a pretty good chance to develop a great search product just in case this one fails.
Have a great long weekend.