If I can’t remember what middle school Condoleezza Rice attended, I do not “bing” it. I, along with most of the world’s population, would “google” it. (Sidebar, I actually “googled” the term “bing” in the process of writing this piece. Proof that nobody “bings” by choice.) However, I am getting the feeling that Microsoft really wants me to “bing” it up, and fast. Due to their recent ad campaigns, I have begun to consider Microsoft’s role in my life. It seems that Microsoft has always been around, and will always be around, but people of my generation ignore the company in favor of their competitor’s flashier, sleeker products. Microsoft’s stability and utility attract older generations, marking them as a distinctly “uncool” brand.
Sitting on my bed, anxiously awaiting the finale of Project Runway, I am deterred by the expected two minutes of ad garbage. A tall, unkempt man with a microphone appears on the screen, bobbing his head in a decidedly awkward fashion, shouting, “Bing It On!” No, this is not the beginning of a cheerleading movie, but this guy does seem overly enthusiastic. He convinces a series of somewhat trendy, young San Franciscans to try a side-by-side test of the two search engines, with a catch. If they choose the Google search as the best, they win a prize like an Xbox 360. If they lose, the nerd with the microphone makes them do something embarrassing. (I know; this is scintillating stuff.) The curious thing about this game is that when players “lose,” Bing wins. The ad operates on the assumption that most people prefer Google, thus emphasizing their own unpopularity. When the man disproves the Google fans because Bing wins the test, he mocks them, making them shout strange things in microphones or shed layers of clothing. Microsoft has learned a lesson: if you can’t find fans, prove them wrong, and then bully them. I hope that works out for them.
It is clear that Microsoft is targeting a younger clientele. In the fall season of many CW shows, Bing will be receiving some large plugs, no doubt thanks to an enormous payoff from Microsoft. During ad breaks, stars from CW shows like Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries will talk about how Bing has helped them. I, for one, know that I would start using Bing if it made it easier for Sarah Michelle Gellar to find the perfect yoga class online!
Such misguided, ineffective campaigning extends past the medium of traditional ads. Why, even here on Princeton’s campus, Microsoft is trying to appeal to younger generations. At Lawn Parties, representatives from the company set up a tent in front of Campus Club. They lured us in with their plastic, trendy-five-years-ago wayfarers and meek tech display. I took the glasses out of pity and soon handed them off to a squinting stranger. While I found their display underwhelming, I left thinking, “Wow, Microsoft wants me to like them.”
Almost everyone in my generation knows Microsoft and their products. We have grown up with the company, maturing as it does. In 1995, when Bill Gates launched Internet Explorer, I was learning my alphabet. Microsoft is as familiar as that kid who lived down the street who bit people. One of Dane Cook’s more popular jokes involves such a girl named Karen. Cook says, “There is one person in every group of friends that nobody likes. You basically keep them there to hate their guts… Every group has a Karen.” Microsoft is essentially the Karen of our generation. No matter how much our parents love Karen and want us to play with her, we will always love to hate her. For example, my father refuses to buy any Apple electronic devices. He’d like everyone to believe that Macintosh is the “devil,” tricking innocents into taking their shiny “Apples,” which will result in their ultimate expulsion from the Garden of Eden (or my father’s version of PC paradise, Radio Shack). As a result of my father’s preference for Microsoft, my household has accrued a steady supply of their gadgets. The only person who uses them is my father. His office closet looks like the command center straight out of an old episode of Star Trek, outfitted with black wires, blinking screens, and the faint smell of burning rubber. This closet is where generations of tablets, laptops, and unidentifiable thing-a-ma-jigs come to die.
My father and his generation will always prefer Microsoft because it is familiar, safe, and reliable. As the decades pass, their products change, but they maintain that black, boxy look, which is a source of comfort and stability. No matter how much Microsoft tries to appeal to the youth, they will probably never succeed. Microsoft will always be in the technological friend group of the average college student, but they are destined to be the Karen. (That’s right; Siri and I do talk about Bing behind her back.) I use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint daily, and I appreciate them, but when the opportunity arises, I will mock Microsoft. The more Microsoft tries to get me to like them, the more I will push them away. Nobody likes a try-hard. My advice to you, Microsoft, is to relax, accept your unpopular status, and keep quietly taking our money. You may not be the coolest kid in our friend group, but we want you around…well, sometimes.