Is it OK to say “I told you so” before I am proven correct?
Just this morning I posted about MSN’s branding conundrum – MSN can’t be the best portal – consumers already perceive Yahoo as the ‘portal brand.’ Similarly, MSN can’t be the best search engine – that perception clearly goes to Google.
As I noted in my earlier post, “Yahoo and MSN can hire the best and brightest search engineers, but consumers will still think ‘Google’ when they need to do an Internet search.” Just like consumers will always think of “Hertz” for rental cars (even though Enterprise is actually a bigger company these days), “Walmart” for low prices, and “Starbucks” for coffee. Thus, I concluded, MSN’s branding strategy should be to give up trying to be the best search engine or portal, and rather create a new category in which MSN can be #1.
But did MSN listen to me? Of course not. Instead – contrarians that they are – they once again confidently predicted that they will soon overtake Google in search. To quote Neil Holloway, Microsoft European President: “What we’re saying is that in six months’ time we’ll be more relevant in the U.S. marketplace than Google. The quality of our search and the relevance of our search from a solution perspective to the consumer will be more relevant.”
So one of two things will happen – Microsoft will come out with a better search experience, or they won’t. Irregardless, this will mean virtually nothing when it comes to MSN’s marketshare of the US search market. The battle is over. Consumers have already spoken – Google is the best search engine. Even if someone else creates an uber-algorithm, in the minds of consumers, Google will still be #1.
So congratulations to Microsoft on their cool technology – maybe it will be useful in improving the search functionality of Outlook, Microsoft Help, and so on. Google, however, is not in peril from such developments. A year from now, when Google is still #1, I’ll be saying the same thing: I told you so.