I often observe my old company's marketing with a mix of critical eye and hopefulness, all colored by my fourteen years at the company. So I'm obviously enjoying the marketing related to the launch of Bing, Microsoft's latest effort to humble Google.
In many ways this is classic Microsoft: an emphasis on feature-rich improvements over the competition, a major publicity push, and "launch event" stunts like a campy "Bing-a-thon" hosted by Hulu.com and (of course) a Space Needle stunt.
(Some of these launch stunts can go horribly wrong. I still cringe and break into cold sweats at the memory from my days as a young Microsoft marketer in the early Nineties when someone thought that sticking MS execs in a broadway-musical style product launch musical was a smart thing to do. Yikes.)
In terms of raising awareness that there is an actual choice in search engines now, it seems to be working.
Google has always taken pride in not really marketing itself other than by coyly generating buzz about what service it may or may not be launching. In some ways that approach has created significant media and consumer craving for the next cool Google innovation.
Microsoft has rarely, if ever, taken the understated approach to marketing. It has a saturation-style approach that in many ways is "old school." The Bing campaign seems to be an interesting mix of old and new media and tactics.
At least - thank goodness - the central marketing group has taught the Microsoft product groups to consider unique, memorable names vs. "Microsoft Search Engine 3.0". You can take that to the Bing. That's a major breakthrough, although some are disagreeing.
For the good of search engine competition and more options in search marketing, let's hope Microsoft gets some traction this time.