Sunday, 13 March 2011


A quick briefing on some of today's Twitter excitement, courtesy of Microsoft.

First, this proclamation was made from the official account of Microsoft's Bing search engine:
How you can #SupportJapan - For every retweet, @bing will give $1 to Japan quake victims, up to $100K.

In other words, We've got a spare $100K. Japan's relief effort would like to have it, don't you think? But we're not going to give it to them. All right, we will, but only $1 at a time, and only if you mention our name. So, chop chop! 

A housemate of mine once received somebody else's order following a warehouse mix-up. It contained the autobiography of South London celebrity criminal Dave Courtney. Knowing me to be time-rich and discretion-poor, he gave it to me.  As a schoolboy, Dave liked amusing himself by assembling homeless alcoholics in the park, and getting them to compete in grotesque athletic contests for the prize of a can of premium strength lager. Little did he know that his Tramp Olympics would one day have a Microsoft marketing initiative created in its image. Dave Courtney's idea of branding was to use a knuckleduster with his name engraved on it. Today, Microsoft's was just as compassionate.

Soon, the virtual air was blue with responses ranging from How about you just give them the $100K? downwards. After several hours, Bing's silence was broken with possibly the most weaselly sentence written so far this year: We apologize the tweet was negatively perceived. Intent was to provide an easy way for people to help Japan. We have donated $100K.

Notice that they are not apologising for the tweet. They are apologising that it was negatively perceived. I'm not sure that's possible: the perception side of things is our job, and not theirs to apologise for. Anyway, I'd say the negative perception was bang on the money and needs no apology. It goes without saying that they regret that it was negatively perceived, but that's another matter entirely.

Microsoft's Bing was launched in 2009 with the strapline The world doesn't need just another search engine, it needs a decision maker. Well, it wants a better one than the one that's marketing Bing.

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