Not sure about you, but the Bing adverts have, as of late, become one of my most despised advertising campaigns. The endless noise and dubious message that any other search engine is going to give you unrelated results, and the implication that we’ve all seemingly got some kind of mental disorder where tangential conversation techniques are the only way to go.
Allow me to de-bunk this marketing campaign, if you will.
First off, take a look at these figures. These were released in July 2010 – before and during the “information overload” advert campaign, which is still going. Yahoo’s share of the UK search engine market has fallen by a couple percent, leaving it third to Bing.
This all sounds hunky-dory until you consider that their combined market share is still equivalent to what it was before. Bing has consumed part of Yahoo’s slice of the online pie, but Google’s still got the same amount of pastry, crumbs and cherries in sauce it had a year ago. Dominance over the market second-comer is not an achievement, not when you’re supplying the search technology for your competitor and their market share was below 5% to begin with.
But the advert asks an interesting question: what has information overload done to us? This is a valid question, and one that it’s taken a Microsoft ad campaign to make us ask of ourselves. Personally, information overload now means I’m learning more than I was ten years ago in my spare time. It means I can research and reference in the space of a minute, and nothing is too complex now as sites covering a single subject help us to study along a gradient of complexity.
Google has, unfortunately for Microsoft’s Bing engine, sealed the market shut, and if in ten years it became the West’s only search engine I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. After all, it works well for what I need it to. Make sure you’re preferring UK results (especially when shopping), stick Safesearch to strict to filter out the waves of immaturity in Google Images, and you’re laughing.
But what if it didn’t work so well? The problem with a monopolistic market share in technology is that consumers tend to flail in panic, en masse, when something goes seriously wrong. Take the iPhone 4, for example. One moment it’s the Messiah, the next we’ve digitally lynch-mobbed Apple to the point that the man at the head of the operation “decided to leave”.
“Digital lynching” is an interesting phrase, and one a colleague coined recently. Apple’s Anntennagate martyr, and HP’s CEO are suffering from the same melodramatic backlash from the public – social media tirades. Twitter has become the new forum for slamming public figureheads, and trending and hash-tags allow this to happen. But are big jobs suffering for it? If Google’s Android system is successfully sued and the funding goes down the toilet, the OS with it, will Twitter turn on Oracle, or Google?
It brings me back to thinking about Bing. Is it a good thing? Do we need a wider choice? I’d say so. Google’s a fantastic search engine, but when one company gets a monopolistic hold on the market, almost no one holds a hand up and says “stop”. However, if it was to happen in government, there’d be protests on the streets.
Tyranny is no different in business, the only change is that your money’s going to Apple for your phone, Microsoft (or Apple again) for your computer and Oyster for your travel (if you’re in London), rather than paying your taxes to whichever party is currently dominating the ballot box. Are we now more subsceptible to marketing than we ever were? Is Bing just another pusher? What has information overload done to us?