Microsoft’s underdog search engine, Bing, is launching the equivalent of a blind taste test for the search industry today, inviting searchers to compare its results against those of Google on queries of their choice.

The “Bing It On” challenge, available here, will be marketed heavily by Microsoft in a new ad campaign as a way of touting research showing that people prefer its results 2:1 over Google’s results in blind comparison tests. It’s similar in many ways to the Pepsi Challenge that the soda maker used to take on rival Coke starting in the 1970s.

It’s a big gamble by Microsoft, because in some cases the challenge could reinforce Google’s brand.

In my first blind test this morning, for example, Google was the winner, in part because it knew that my search for “Cake” was a reference to the band, whereas Bing thought I was looking for something from the bakery. I was signed in to both my Google and Microsoft accounts, but the search giant had an edge based on my search history.

In my second blind test, using more straightforward queries, Bing’s results edged out Google’s results.

Microsoft is betting that the research is on the mark, and people overall will prefer its results.

“Since relevancy of search results is the #1 driver of search engine preference, the time is right for a wake-up call for searchers,” writes Mike Nichols, Bing corporate vice president and chief marketing officer, in a post this morning.

At the very least, the big marketing push promises to put Bing on the radar of more people. And Microsoft doesn’t have a lot to lose. The company has about 15 percent market share in the U.S., compared with 66 percent for Google.

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  • Guest

    Bold, sad, and desperate, all in one. MS just doesn’t get it. Search wasn’t broken and therefore Bing adds no value for most people.

    • DadYoureEmbarassingMe

      Well stated actually.

      The idea of head-to-head IS bold, I give them that.

      But the “Bing it on” has that painful, cringe-worthy quality of unhip people trying to be hip (remember Zune’s “Welcome to the Social”). It makes me think of David Brent from the UK Office singing and dancing.

      To the point about search not being broken, I think the problem here is this campaign doesn’t close the deal. I don’t care about relevancy per se. I care about it as an enabler to getting things done. In that way, I actually think the original “Decision Engine” campaign was more effective. It certainly made me at least think about Bing more than any other ad campaign has.

      At the end of the day, I’d argue a lot of Microsoft’s marketing is suffering from cool envy. Quit trying to be cool and focus on talking about how your products help real people solve real problems in real life.

      • Harkonnen

        Also well-stated! Microsoft is at it’s best when it is true to itself as a nerdy but effective provider of technology. Hotmail/Outlook, Office, Windows 7 and 8; nerdy but effective.

        This desire to compete with Google or anyone else hamstrings the company. As in life, just compete with oneself and become the best.

        • guest

          MS is genetically incapable of self-motivation in pursuit of excellence. That’s Apple’s skill, and to a much lesser degree Google’s. MS defines itself in terms of competitors. It needs an enemy to motivate itself. When an obvious one doesn’t exist, like circa 1998-2003, they go dormant externally and instead eat each other.

          • Jacob Samples

            So around the time their “best” OS came out?….Yeah, they did so much damage to themselves, lemme tell you…

          • guest

            By 2003 MS was well into its downhill slide in relevance and competitiveness, yes.

      • guest

        “Decision Engine” is certainly less stupid marketing than “Almost as good as Google”. What’s less clear is that the implied problem exists or how Bing solves it so much better. Kind of hard to tout yourself as a “Decision Engine”, for example, when you don’t even support “time” as a pivot across all searches, unlike that supposed non decision engine Google. Don’t know that MS’s marketing suffers from cool envy so much as just sucks generally, which in turn has made them increasingly uncool. It has been a problem for years. They even implicitly acknowledged it when the previous VP “retired”. But there’s been no improvement with the new candidate. Like everything under Ballmer, things just sit around visible to all, yet unsolved and allowed to fester.

    • ruchitgarg

      well said

  • Mahmoud Darwish

    if they change Bing’s results page UI i might try using it from time to time

    • guest

      They have a reminder for that. #lame

  • Kirill Zubovsky

    The world doesn’t need a better search engine. The one we have will suffice. If Bing can copy or to do better than Google, great! But, no one gives a rat’s… There is absolutely 0 reason for anyone to switch over to Bing, and Microsoft just doesn’t seem to get it.

    What Microsoft needs to do is to put their smart people on building a new search medium. Google is going to have Google Glasses, self driving cars, entertainment systems … you name it. Guess what users of those products are going to use for Maps, local search, social stuff…etc? Yeah, they will just keep using Google.

    Microsoft needs to start inventing again. Xbox was an accident, but a bloody good one. They need more of those. Microsoft has to find a way to create a new medium for search, and then to integrate Bing all across that new medium.

    • guest

      MS had no business getting into search, just like they should never have gotten into console gaming. Both have been massive financial losers and distractions from their core businesses, which now face existential threats. And while Xbox at least became a leader in yesterday’s gaming market (consoles), Bing hasn’t gained even a single percent of share against Google. Some smart people are already speculating that Yahoo will dump MS at the next opportunity and either partner more closely with Apple or be bought out by them entirely. If that happens, Bing’s viability goes from slim to zero. MS needed to be preparing for a post-PC world a decade ago, and they did. Nobody spent more trying. They just failed. Completely and abjectly. I don’t know how they reinvent the company now or if it isn’t too late already. But one thing I’m sure about is that you don’t get there by emulating either Xbox or Bing.

    • Matt Hintze

      What did they invent, exactly? BG just takes what is trending and makes it commerciably viable. They did it with Apple, then copied Netscape, and he hasn’t changed since.

  • Are you really that sure?

    There is one thing bing adds which has caused me to never use google: Bing Rewards, I get lots of free stuff and even giftcards just for searching! And then what about the things microsoft has done to help? They give out Free health care to their empolies and donate tons of money. I’d say mabye before you bash a compeny for one mistake thing about the effect the have had on the world! And why on earth would you say that the should have got into the game world? Have you heard of the kinect? The wonderful thing that makes kids move rather then just sitting around?

  • K+K=L

    I have always preferred my results on Google and the bingiton challenge showed nothing to the contrary. One thing I did notice that concerned me a bit was when I went through the challenge the second time I decided to search for some random things that some young people may search for like “am I gay” or “my mom is a lesbian” or “I have two Moms” , now this was a personal choice because of my personal life but there is no doubt other people and more importantly young people that may some day search for these things and bings results were scary. In the results promptly displayed are links to pornographic videos, If my son were to search for one of these this wall of video selections would be one of the first things he sees, uhm I don’t think so bing! I will never let my kids use bing that’s for sure and I will stay with my always loyal and helpful Google.

  • dani

    it just sounds weird to say,”oh, I’m going to go bing this!” as apposed to, “oh, I’m going to go google this!” bing sounds like a negative word for some reason.

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