Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bing: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

How do you enter the search-engine market when your competition is so well-established that its brand had become a widely used word meaning to search online?

That was Microsoft's marketing challenge with the introduction of its search engine brand Bing in the spring, led by Yusuf Mehdi, senior VP, Microsoft Online Audience Business.

"People thought about search engines about as much as they thought about tapping their fingers in a meeting -- that is, not much," said Danielle Tiedt, general manager of marketing in Mr. Mehdi's division.

The good news was that Microsoft research found an underlying "latent dissatisfaction with search." And so Microsoft began crafting its first phase of an estimated $100 million marketing blast for Bing, along with its agency JWT, which included a massive TV media blitz or "air cover," along with online display, search engine marketing, display, and direct response. The online media was just as aggressive as the TV media barrage and included takeovers of major sites such as The New York Times and MSNBC.

Brand integrations with TV talk shows including Rachel Maddow and Jimmy Fallon attempted to push marketing beyond the norm as a way to get Bing into the everyday conversation. A branded entertainment deal with "The Philanthropist" carried the theme further, with both TV spots and a storyline integration, as characters used Bing Maps to search the world and look for information. A sponsorship deal with MTV Networks shows including "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and "The George Lopez Show" gave consumers more content using a TV spot that "fast-forwarded" through several minutes of ads in just 30 seconds.

Social media also played an important role, allowing Microsoft to listen to what people were saying about Bing and respond. A photo contest where the winner's work was posted to the Bing home page brought 18,000 submissions in two weeks, and a Bing jingle contest garnered dozens of submissions and thousands of views. Mr. Mehdi recently announced (before Google) that Bing will soon begin indexing both Facebook and Twitter updates in real-time.
Other important components to Microsoft's paid marketing plan were deals with Dell and HP to be the default browser on those PCs. Ms. Tiedt said those deals served two purposes -- to build the brand via well-established partners and to make Bing easy to use with its inclusion in the toolbars.

In June, Microsoft said visits to Bing were up 8%, and Ms. Tiedt said Microsoft research and tracking found that awareness and trials of Bing was more than double the initial goals. She said growth is steady every month, and they are "cautiously optimistic" for the future.

Beatles Rock Band: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

Beatles 'Rock Band'
All they needed was a marketing plan. And for the launch of the Beatles "Rock Band" video game Nov. 9, the plan was as coordinated and multi-faceted as the legendary band itself.
A massive PR campaign, cinema trailer teaser, multiple digital advertising efforts, social media, day-and-date co-launch with the first-ever Beatles digital album releases, and a TV launch spot with real images of the Fab Four musicians built both anticipation and sales, resulting in a No. 1 music game spot for its first full month of sales in September.

Paul DeGooyer, senior VP-electronic games and music, MTV Networks Music Group, said the key to the video game's success has been the tight coordination with the Beatles and their heirs, to maintain a high level of authenticity.

"We've been very respectful of the Beatles and very respectful of the product, and everything else led from that respect for the music," Mr. DeGooyer said.

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, in fact, were so impressed by MTV and its game division Harmonix's work on the game that both of the surviving Beatles enhanced the public relations greatly with atypical enthusiasm for media interviews. Both men, as well as Beatles widows Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono, and producer Giles Martin (son of "Fifth Beatle" George Martin), were interviewed for a New York Times Magazine cover story in August that MTV execs describe as a "watershed" PR moment for the game. Cover stories for the game on Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard and others followed.

Anticipation played a key role in the marketing as well. The Beatles game was officially unveiled at the seminal E3 gaming show in June, during the first 10 minutes of Microsoft's traditional convention-opener conference, with a surprise appearance by the four Beatles shareholders. A two-minute cinematic trailer launched there, with animated game visuals of the Beatles playing 10 songs spanning their career, and became a widely praised, viewed and passed-around video.

The estimated $20 million ad campaign also included a popular TV spot that debuted the week before the game, which featured the original Beatles images mixed into a crowded Abbey Road street scene created by MTV Networks with the help of RDA International.

Phase two of marketing for "The Beatles: Rock Band" will continue through the important holiday season, with more digital download content and promotions. The first downloadable song, "All You Need Is Love," with much of its cost donated to the charity Doctors Without Borders, was the fastest-selling "Rock Band" downloadable song to date. "Abbey Road" followed as a full album top-seller, with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Rubber Soul" planned for this year.

Mr. DeGooyer said, "The decision was made early on, if the music is true to the band, it will do what it's meant to do."