When your direct competitor holds 67 percent market share and is synonymous with the product category itself, you have a couple of options. In the case of Microsoft’s search engine Bing, you can roll out a new form of the product that exploits one of the competitor’s vulnerabilities, as Bing did by rolling out real social search in May to counter Google’s Google+ injection.
Another option is to go right at Google and its users, Pepsi style.
On Thursday the search engine launched the Bing It On Challenge. The initiative calls on users to input five search queries that will output a set of results from Bing and another from Google but without any branding to denote which search engine returned which results. Like the famous Pepsi Challenge, users will have to compare the results at face value (just like they did for Gabe Kaplan all those years ago).
Bing has also removed all the bells and whistles from each engine’s respective results page, so users won't encounter social search, ads, or those Knowledge Graph boxes that appear regularly on the right rail of Google’s pages. The reason behind that spartan approach: Bing senior director Lisa Gurry said 86 percent of users’ clicks on a search results page take place in the main pane where the organic results are displayed.
After users who elect to participate in the challenge compare the results, they can choose a winner or declare a draw and share their verdict to Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
The challenge stems from a study Microsoft commissioned earlier this year conducted by Answers Research; 998 consumers were put through a blind test similar to the Bing It On Challenge, and nearly twice as many participants said they ended up preferring Bing’s results as those who leaned toward Google’s.
Bing is promoting the challenge with TV spots that will debut during Thursday's MTV Video Music Awards, online ads and in Microsoft retail stores and kiosks that will pop up throughout the country—at which consumers can take the challenge. Crispin Porter Bogusky handled the TV, online video, social and site development aspects of the campaign with Starcom MediaVest Group handling media and Razorfish supporting on digital. Microsoft is all rolling out the Bing It On Sweepstakes through whicht consumers can enter to win products like an Xbox, Surface tablet or the upcoming Windows 8 operating system simply by posting a designated challenge on Twitter.
Oddly, Microsoft isn’t tracking the results of the campaign, which could be used to inform the development of Bing such as where it falls short of Google in users’ minds. Gurry said Bing already does a lot of internal testing looking at search relevancy. “This [campaign is designed to be a fun way for people to reconsider the search engine they’re using,” she said.