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Google’s brand strategy used to be “organizing the world’s information” or putting the “world’s information one click away.”  Larry Page, seeing that his market share slipped 1.2% last year has decided to change that. He’s renamed the search division the knowledge division.  This, ironically, is the Microsoft Bing strategy – so eloquently presented in the “information overload” campaign developed by JWT a couple of years ago.  The difference between “information” and “knowledge” being that the latter takes you closer to a decision — closer to a sale.  This is a mistake.  The strategy did not move the market significantly for Bing and won’t for Google.  Google needs to stick to owning search and leave our brains to us.

cave art

What has disrupted search on the web is the smart phone. (See cover story in the NYT today for excellent piece on this.) Mobile phones are not built for full screen search, so app developers and VCs have set their sights on specialized, robust search and retrieve mobile experiences that remove the chaff and get us to information right away.  These apps, by specializing and using geo-location, trump Google and search on mobiles. They are hot — but proper monetization still isn’t happening. Ads on mobiles are still cave art.

Let’s solve the mobile ad thing by 2015.  Any ideas?   Peace.

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Be fresh.

So I’m reading an article this morning in USA Today featuring interviews with some top hospitality CEOs, and their answers are peppered with language like: “price of entry,” “customer-for-life,” “providing value” and “surprise and delight.” A marko-babble fest.  Not implying these aren’t smart people, they clearly are. What I’m saying is marketing has become filled with terms of art that are nice on the ear but meaningless. 

Do a Google or Bing search of “whatstheidea+surprise and delight” and if this blog pops up, break out a can of whoop ass. Jargon may be acceptable in meetings but it is the antichrist in external communications. It was copywriting great Walter Weir, I think, who said “if it sounds like copy, it’s good copy.”  Dear old Walter was born in ’06.  The industry has published 10 trillion words copy since then. There is an entire class of ad agencies called “creative hot shops” whose sole reason for being is to break away from Mr. Weir’s premise.

So what should we do?  Drop the babble.  Invent your own selling premise and selling language. Be fresh. Freshies (Sorry, racing a storm to Whiteface today.) And it is okay to be a little fresh in a non-puritanical sense.  We are at 10 trillion words and counting. There are only so many pairings – as Google will tell you. Peace!

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Not sure if they are launching a new tagline, but locked up with the logo at the bottom of the ad are the words “Need. Know. Accomplish.” They visited the triumvirate tagline store, apparently.

Apparently, 15 years – which is nothing to sneeze at – is an About differentiator.  I say that because “need know accomplish” is the Bing strategy. And we know that Google owns the “need know accomplish” space.

I want About to win because I love The New York Times. About needs some of that NYT sophistication and savvy to rub off on it. It needs to be more human, less algo, more alive. And, frankly, it’s built an okay site reflecting that. The user experience faces the right direction. Problem is, the brand is weak. The promise blah. The there is there, but the message is without ballast. The New York Times has never really had to brand plan for the paper-paper or the digital version. It has just needed to promote and sell, because brand “the package” has always been so strong., on the other hand, needs a home in consumers’ minds. Right now it’s a word. A site. It’s has a pumping heart.  Let’s hope in 5 years it has a soul too. I wish it well. Peace.

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Bing may be a better search engine; it may not be.  If you listen to Microsoft insiders it certainly is. If you listen to SEO nerds it’s a toss-up or a no.  If you try Bing, it appears to be a new skin with better pictures on the same algo.

Bing’s initial advertising straddled the fence on 2 ideas: the decision engine and information overload. The latter was fun and made for great advertising and a great launch. It set the stage for an implicit benefit: make better decisions. The benefit was not explicit, though the tagline was. Microsoft recently moved the Bing business to Crispin Porter Bogusky from JWT and is running a new TV ad talking about Facebook integration. (Integration is a word techies use when at a loss for other words.) The new work is cute and will appeal to fast-twitch media consumers (millennials) but it feels idea-less.  I’m not getting information overload or decision engine.

Though not everyone who searches is looking to make a decision, decision engine is a good strategy. Tying the wagon (Could I be more of a geezer?) to Facebook or Project Glee is a borrowed interest approach to marketing. It’s a tactic. The nerdiest softies in Redmond know their search algo is better than Google’s. Someone just needs to find out why. And how.  Then take that how and wrap it English — with song, pictures and video and sell some clicks. And the real softy nerds know this. “Why are we singing, when we should be saying?” Decision engine is the idea.  Organize the proof. Peace!

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The evolution of web traffic started with technology. Search begat the first big rush — but of course there had to be something to search so HTML really started it all.  After search came social networks (MySpace and Facebook) which allowed people to create websites or webpages thanks to templates and databases.  Allowing everyone (not just coders) to create a web presence opened this door. Then came music sharing sites and other media upload sites like Flickr and YouTube. All technology enabled.

During the build out of these tech-enabled web sites, communities began to emerge.  And so came enthusiast sites: Tech enthusiasts, movie enthusiasts. porn devotees, daters, news junkies. Those interested in healthcare. Communities sprung up, big and small, but mostly big.

Currently, we’re on an entertainment jag, with games and virtual goods, random video chat and anime mash-ups drawing the attention of the masses and venture money. The iPazzle (technology) is creating some new applications for sure, moving everything toward a single device, but it won’t explode web traffic exponentially.

So what’s next? What human need is not being met?  When we get tired of entertainment what will we seek?  What will generate massive traffic and engagement on the web?  It will be micro-communities. Noah Brief and Piers Fawkes might call them LikeMinds. For me, I’d love to chat with kids who went to Amityville JHS, in school the day Martin Luther King was shot. Or people who saw the Allman Brothers early show at the Fillmore East in 1970 the night they shot the inside album cover. Maybe we are not like minds, but we’re like experiencers… at a certain time and place. There’s an idea for Google or Bing, the search experts. Micro communities. Peace!

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Smiles at AOL.

AOL’s purchase of the Huffington Post 8 hours ago was very smart.  I Googled my blog  (whattheidea+AOL) to see if I could find the prediction of said purchase and could not. Maybe I should use Bing.  (Full disclosure, hee hee.)  Anyway, if AOL’s strategy is to provide the best content on the web, this is a great move.  And I loved Arianna Huffington’s quote in the paper paper — her first as head of the new media property group — that she won’t let her politics get in the way of her job.  Yeah right. That’s what makes the Huff Post great.  She can put on her transformer hat when overseeing other media properties, but don’t change a thing on the Huff Post.   Ima (pronounced eye-mah) have to start reading, I guess. 

And, oh, by the way, this story was not on the front page of the NY Times business section, it was on the front page.  Just under the mast head.  The geezer talk for important.

Tim Armstrong articulated the strategy to be a content leader and he is delivering.  Yahoo articulated the same strategy and is not. Nice move AOL. Nice move.  Even Michael Arrington (TechCrunch) is probably smiling.  Peace!

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Charlene Li has a great post today about Bing and its product alliance with Facebook — one she feels will help Microsoft cut into Google’s search share.  She is quite right. Bing, number 3 in search, announced it will integrate Facebook’s social graph information (“Likes’) into search results, as an option.  If you use Bing to search a particular topic you will have the ability to check results based upon how your Facebook friends affect those results as determined by their “Likes.”   

This is smart logic on Microsoft’s part…jumping on the bandwagon of the world’s most populous social network.  It’s smart for Facebook, backing up the truck to the Microsoft bank. And it’s good across-the-board logic, allowing search to be viewed based upon the likes of friends, followers and communities.  

When Facebook changed “Fan” to “Like” it struck me as a bit odd, though. Call me paranoid, but I now smell the backroom deal. The timing was about right.

Personally I am not a big “Liker.”  I don’t really click on “Liked” things, yet many do and it has become a popular pastime and app.  As more marketers encourage Facebook users to Like things – and shill for their brands – the behavior will become tired, forced and die down.  As permissions and privacy interests grow Likes will also die down.  Facebook will still be Facebook, finding new ways to grow and monetize, and Bing will have won some serious market share points with this new tactic. That said, Bing will still be innovating OPS (other people’s stuff). Peace!

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Miguel Helft, a writer for The New York Times, is quickly becoming “a person of interest” in the technology opinion leader space, cranking out good analysis for a couple of years now. His column “Ping” in the Sunday Business section is definitely worth the read. This week he wrote “…search advertising is probably the most effective form of marketing ever invented.” Remove the word “probably” and you have a serious declaration.

Search has changed the world. If the Internet is the game-changing technology, search is certainly the killer application. That’s why Google is making da monies. Yeah, Google says they’re all about organizing the world’s information, but organizing it is the how— search is the what.

As search becomes more complicated, and it will, too much information will make it harder for consumers to pull the trigger on brands. This is the crux of Microsoft’s Bing campaign which discusses information overload positions Bing as the decision engine. As algorithms help us shop and compare and as we become more loyal to the search tools than the brands, the art of selling becomes less artful. We’re seeing the beginnings of that today. Peace!

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Microsoft’s Bing ads are chasing down two ideas. Both are pretty strong but since they are executed together they both lose power and become watered down.


The first idea is the “cure for search overload syndrome.” It is fun, relevant, creates a problem (where one may not exist), and has the potential to be talked about and mimicked. I can see high school kids free-styling stuff like this. The second idea, “the decision engine,” hasn’t been fully carried out in the TV ads but it augers to the core of what searchers want: find, compare and decide. It’s a stand alone idea, not just a campaign tagline.  


Were I the brand manager at Microsoft, I’d pick one of these two ideas and stick to it. A tight branding idea is easy to execute. Open the door a bit to another idea and you confuse the consumer. It’s not that hard people. Peace!


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Microsoft Bing, a new search engine going live next Wednesday, has set its sights on Google.  Word on the Avenue is that Bing will be supported by over $100 million in advertising and with preloaded Bing search bars on new HP and Dell computers the communications spend will go way beyond.  I like the product name and from what I’ve read I suspect Bing will have some good traction, but two things I anticipate will get in its way: over-engineering and a feisty ad campaign. 


Google started out simple and people loved it. Bing will start out rich in features, with more feature creep on the way, and the masses may balk.  Can you say Mahalo?  

The advertising, which I’m assuming will come from Crispin Porter, should be good. But it will be a bit competitive towards Google and will be the wrong approach. I would go just the opposite and use my Microsoft Bing dollars to tell everyone how great Google is. Be nice doggies. Unexpected with praise. At the end of the spots, don’t zing Google, tell people the message was brought to you by Bing and ask people to give it a try. That, in and of itself, will signal it’s different. The end. Peace!


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