“He BING’d it!”

If any of you track how “Judy Consumer” is faring with the new BING, you will know that “Judy Consumer” has been pretty hard on BING. “Judy Consumer” recently dinged BING for its lack of delivery on its “decision engine” promise. “Judy Consumer” could not figure out how to get the decision engine price chart promised so beautifully in the spots by JWT.

I, Judy Marketing Geek, was also down on BING but for entirely different reasons. IMO, the BING campaign took two clumsy missteps.

First, they made the mistake of using the rational thinking of research and strategy to drive a creative strategy (what’s more rational than a “decision engine” position I ask you). That’s not so bad except the resulting campaign is all corporate bore that hangs loosely on a form but it still lacked the ability to really connect to “Judy Consumer”. It lacks “techno-soul”, it lacks creative sparks.

If one compares these spots to say, Apple, the contrast is clear. Apple spots are well grounded in rational thinking but give primacy to the creative spark that animates it all. Every Apple spot has that techno-soul. The BING spots don’t and so they can not really reach “Judy Consumer’s” heart. No spark and no campaign can go from “ok” to great (again think Apple spots).

The second misstep the campaign took and is the one I personally find the most difficult to bear, largely because Microsoft is held as a role model for technology advertising. The BING campaign failed to deliver something as basic as an honest, clear and simple understanding of what BING does actually do. Instead, JWT created a simplistic (note I did not say simple) campaign lacking in any real meaning? How does BING help anyone decide anything? Is the price chart just a gimmick?

“Judy Consumer” does not need to know the algorithmic nature of how results are generated, but she needs to understand how to connect BING’s abilities to what she does everyday. She deserves to understand the basics behind the big promises.

These two missteps represent mistakes made on the part of both the client and agency. Microsoft made the mistake many tech advertisers make – they confused simplistic messaging (that’s a bad thing) with simple messaging (that’s a good thing). Simplistic marketing tends to appeal to lowest common denominator and this often limits its ability to connect meaningfully, emotionally because it vaguely assumes “Judy Consumer” won’t understand anything too complex. On the other hand, simple marketing boils down your value proposition to a comprehensible and honest articulation of what you deliver. BING’s advertising is simplistic and assumes the “Judy Consumers” won’t understand much. That’s an underestimation and its flaw. Its simplistic promise is all big rational promise without its techno-soul.

But what mistake did a great agency make? They failed to drive the campaign to achieve a key magic ingredient – the techno-soul of the campaign. It lacks creative spark. I can’t say what happened for sure, but 12 years on the agency side gives me a pretty good idea. The agency strategy folks (left brainers I’ll call them) probably did some research (quantitative and/ or qualitative) to learn that people are dissatisfied with their current search experiences because they often yield lots of irrelevant results. With that key insight in mind, then multiple ideas were spun off and then another round of testing was done to refine the concept.

Next, the “rational” campaign was smoothed out and polished so that it played well in presentations and board meetings. It probably tested well too. Yet, in all this left brain, rational massaging to get the campaign sold-in, the techno-soul was lost.

In fact, the decision engine position sucks the soul out of BING. Why? Because that type of position goes against the concept of the Internet as a free information resource for all. Not all information seekers are seeking a decision.  In fact, this whole decision engine positioning vaguely suggests a new class system within the Internet that favors those who can make decisions, techno-code for people who can buy stuff. Maybe it’s just me – but this approach seems to be limiting the Internet’s natural capacity for unfettered expansiveness. A creative mind would have understood that.

Now as any good client understands, after you’ve told the agency what you don’t want, you must give clear direction on what you do want. So now let me have some fun for a moment and I’ll pretend I am “Judy Client” thinking about how BING might be marketed. My brilliant agency has shown me reams of research to tell me that consumers often get frustrated with search results that are off the mark.

As “Judy Client”, I would want to hear how real people describe their BING experiences. I would ask anyone I knew about their experiences (much to my kids’ chagrin as I interrogate their friends on this type of stuff). Then invariably the inspiration moment would come with my husband being the messenger this time. He described how his friend “BING’d” for an obscure piece of information and was greatly surprised and delighted when he found it.

And then in a breath, I knew he had expressed the perfect position.  BING can become synonymous with a new type of search … one that is great at finding the informational needle in the digital haystack. He even said the word BING with a “ring”, suggesting that the word BING is so auditory and should be more overly integrated in the campaign. Or maybe there’s an effort to create “He BING’d it” as a techno-colloquial phrase. I can even imagine how BING becomes the sound you hear when you get a great result.

I get that positioning and I think “Judy Consumer” would get that.  I would excitedly call my brilliant agency kindred spirit to share with him/ her the insight. And I would trust they will know how to create life and a soul around that idea. In the end, no research can take the place of gut creative judgment. No amount of rational strategy will help an ad campaign rise above the mundane to greatness. It takes a rare combination of brilliant agency and client talent along with a healthy dose of intuition to create brilliance.

So remember Microsoft, if some clever agency person comes to you with a recommendation to establish “He BING’d it” as colloquial term, remember – you heard it here first.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

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3 Responses

  1. Now that’s a great story and a great post. Really insightful.

  2. This is revealing, but by accounts, users are trying BING. Go figure.

  3. cool — this is a really interesting post. thanks.

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