Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
Jun 12

How (not) to Launch a Search/Decision/Whatever Engine

The past few weeks witnessed the introduction of two new competitors to Google: Bing and WolframAlpha.  Both services have their strengths (and weaknesses); however they both experienced rocky roll-outs.  Here are three lessons public relations professionals should learn from the respective launches.

1.      If you’re going to launch, be open for business.  The world was introduced to Bing May 28th. But not really. Visitors to the site were greeted first by a blank screen, then with a note that Bing would be “coming soon.” The launch release indicated it would be available for actual searches six days later on June 3rd.  The end result? A tremendous loss of traffic that wasted massive amounts of  publicity.

2.      If you’re going to tease, make sure there’s a payoff.  The launch of WolframAlpha was fed by months of speculation and anticipation (a leaked screen shot, a video demo with no shots of the service, etc).  When it launched, however, the service did not live up to, probably unrealistic, expectations. The result? By one measure interest in WolframAlpha has cooled significantly.

3.      Don’t be cute, but if you insist on being cute, be consistent.  You may think WolframAlpha and Bing are search engines but they’re not. How do we know? They told us. WolframAlpha is a ‘computational knowledge engine’ while Bing is ‘decision engine.’ What’s wrong with this? First, the phrase ‘computational knowledge engine’ needs its own ‘computational knowledge engine’ to be understood.  Second, while ‘decision engine’ is easier to understand, Microsoft is inconsistent in its messaging.  Just check out the launch release wherein Bing is described as both a ‘decision engine’ and a ‘new approach to search.’ If you want to play down comparisons to your chief competitor, describe yourself as something different all the time. If the comparisons are unavoidable, don’t try to avoid them.

I said there were three lessons, but here’s one more thing we should all remember.  When you’re naming you’re new product, make sure you think through all the ways your new name can be manipulated.

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide