Even Inside Microsoft, Users Rarely "Bing It"

"You don't believe me? Bing it."

That's Daniel Dae Kim, lead actor of CBS's hit TV series Hawaii Five-0, during an early episode in which he casually suggests to his partner that she "Bing" a query rather than "Google" it.

To many, the scene wasn't jarring so much for its egregious product placement but for Kim's laughably unrealistic dialogue. After all, few, if any, say they are going to "Bing" anything. Unlike Google, a brand and word synonymous with search, Microsoft's rival engine has yet to enter our lexicon as a verb, despite CEO Steve Ballmer's hope that it would. That "Bing" is not a verb reflects the huge challenge Microsoft faces in the space—the service has yet to make significant gains on king Google, which owns two-thirds of the U.S. search market. And now, it appears as if Microsoft has even given up trying to make "Bing" a verb that's as much a part of our web-surfing habits as it is our vernacular.

"We don't have an explicit strategy to go chase the verbiness," says Adam Sohn, general manager of influencer marketing at Bing. "We don't have that as a goal—like we're not spending money [on it]. We've never tried to verb it."

Of course, it'd be hard for Sohn to deny that Microsoft would love for "Bing" to be a verb just like "Google" is. The company has clearly spent money in the past on Bing product placement. Ballmer has said that he loves Bing's potential "to verb up." And even the tagline of its big new marketing campaign—"Bing It On," a sort of Pepsi challenge for search—uses "Bing" as a verb, albeit as a pun.

Traditionally, companies have fought against what's called "genericide" or "generification," an industry term for when a brand name becomes so commoditized that it loses association with the company that first created it. Think: Aspirin, Band-Aid, Xerox, Frisbee. As Graeme Diamond, principal editor for new words at the Oxford English Dictionary, once told me, "Some companies aggressively resist generification...We don’t much care since we reflect language as it’s actually used—not as executives wish it were."

But in the tech industry, most executives are happy to have their brands become verbs: to Google, to Facebook, to Netflix. And Bing higher-ups, which refer to Google as "the Kleenex of the search category," have come to accept the fact that the verb "to Google" is here to stay. "I think we're conflicted but happy if someone said 'Google it' but they were going to Bing and giving us the query," says Sohn, who believes there is some benefit of Google's genericide. "The thing about Kleenex is once you pull it out of the box, it looks exactly the same, whereas with online products, the brands are a bit more forward. So if you say, 'I'm going to Google it,' and you go to Bing—cause that's what you have set as the default—over time, you're going to understand the brand that you are using."

Even internally, the verb "to Bing" is not standard. "Some people say the verb—sometime they say, 'Hey, Bing this,'" explains Mike Nichols, corporate VP and chief marketing officer of Bing. "But it's rare."

In the coming months, Microsoft and its partners will begin to push out its new Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 operating systems, a big marketing effort that is likely to garner Bing some more attention. The company is also looking to strike more deals with third parties to include its search engine on their platforms, such as with the Kindle Fire HD, Amazon's new flagship tablet, which will come with Bing by default instead of Google search.

Nichols says it's still early in Bing's life, at least too early to try to make Bing into a verb. "I don't think we're even ready to set it as an objective," he says.

But one thing is for certain. In Redmond, Nichols says, "Nobody ever uses 'Google it.'"

[Image: Flickr user Chandler Hummell]

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  • Layne Huber

    They are getting close. As soon as they realize it is really "it"® then maybe MICROSOFT will be on the TOP again. They may be scared to actually beat GOOGLE with regards to SEARCH and ADVERTISING. It will take an entire platform where ALL the information can be organized and sorted and BILL GATES has spent BILLIONS of dollars to figure"it" out first and still hasn't got "it"® figured out. But neither has GOOGLE. Good thing someone has. What would a platform like that be worth? I believe a system/platform like what is required to BEAT GOOGLE would actually be priceless and so important to the human race no amount of money would ever suffice. Let's get to work building "it"® so that ALL INFORMATION is ORGANIZED on the web/net that currently doesn't exist. There is no net or web. If there was we could see how it is laid out and put our information, products, or services online where we all know they could be found by RELEVANCE! GOOGLE searches by who PAYS MOST not RELEVANCE. BING "it"®?

  • Lyrap

    its funny how the oxford english dictionary was quoted after almost exclusively using american generified examples. generified. is that right. it sounds like two discarded bits of word sown together in some sort of frankenstein word that will eventually attack other words even though he was just looking for friendship

  • Willinilli

    "We've never tried to verb it"
    I think, therein, lies the problem. Verb, the word, is actually a noun.

  • Backup Bob

    If the Kindle comes with Bing by default, and if Google cannot be substituted, I will not buy a Kindle.  

  • Michael Bauser

    I just want to say that "We don't have an explicit strategy to go chase the verbiness" is the best marketing-speak sentence I've ever heard. Adam Sohn deserves a Nobel in Literature for that sentence.

  • Joey

    Companies should stay at what they do best.  MS can't even keep their OS safe from malware, and they are wasting effort delving into a market where there was no additional need.

  • chris joseph

    When I used Yahoo for searching, prior to Google, I never called it "yahooing". "Google" just kind of worked.
    Given their business practices as of late, I really feel a need to divest myself of their free services.

  • Anonymous Anonymous

    Anyone with half a brain will of course neither Bing or Google it, but DuckDuckGo it.

  • Jillx

    Bing is not horrible.  Bing is great.  It is just as good and even better at times , than Google. Those persons who think there can be no equal to Google , have Google so burned into their minds that they can't see or else refuse to see , that there can be a good search engine besides Google.  Yes folds , Bing is just as good as Google.  Get over it.

  • Sun

    If you live outside the US, Bing simply sucks, it is nowhere close to the quality of Google results. I keep trying DuckDuckGo, Blekko and Bing and finally give it up and come back to Google.

  • NplClamp

    Sorry, but I don't use Google because its "so burned into [my] mind."  I use it because on those occasions when I've tried to use Bing it's been so hopelessly terrible and cumbersome that I've wished my brain *were* being burned by a 45-caliber upgrade to my wetware.  Microsoft's web search is like much of the rest of it's offerings: in trying to be all things to all users it does nothing well.  Google didn't do anything to become a verb other than work better than any other alternative. 

  • Google, help me please.

    I accidentally used Bing and school because it was the default search engine. Looked at the link the first search result had and ended up having .....google.com/..... in it. Bing searching through other search engines, genius

  • Guest

    " Kindle Fire HD, Amazon's new flagship tablet, which will come with Bing by default instead of Google search." makes me not want to buy a Kindle.