Remember the Pepsi Challenge? Pepsi’s promotional taste test, which lasted from 1975 to 2010, had consumers sipping unmarked cups of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, and then picking which tasted better. The results showed that, despite Coke’s superior brand recognition and unmatched worldwide popularity, most Americans preferred the flavor of Pepsi (at least after one sip) when they didn’t know which was which ahead of time.
According to some, the Pepsi Challenge showed that Coke’s larger market share was attributable largely to its brand value, marketing efforts and perhaps its classic logo, not necessarily because it tastes better. But 35 years of successful Pepsi Challenges couldn’t sway as many consumers as hoped, and Coke sold more than twice as much soda as Pepsi last year.
So if Pepsi couldn’t win the soda wars with a taste test, can Microsoft win the search engine wars with a search test? Microsoft is banking on it with the recently launched Bing it On, a “side-by-side search off” between its Bing search engine and reigning competitor Google. Bing it On allows users to enter a search term and see a blind comparison of search results from Bing and Google, then vote on which results they prefer. After five rounds, a victor is revealed (if there is one, since participants can vote ‘draw’ for close calls). Bing proudly proclaims that people prefer Bing over Google 2:1, based on a study sponsored by Microsoft. Will Bing it On yield similar results?
When I gave it a test run, Google was the victor… but not by much. In fact, out of five searches, Google ‘won’ twice, there were two draws and Bing won once. Not exactly a landslide. Google performed better when I searched for myself (+ Boston) and March Communications, but Bing was only one or two relevant results behind in each case. Go ahead and give it a try for yourself. And if Bing wins, is it enough to make you switch allegiances, even if you’re a dedicated Googler?