Neal Freeland

Engineering/marketing manager, family guy. My personal blog with a few work thoughts mixed in.

Club Bing Closes But Bing Rewards Continues

with 4 comments

Club Bing, a marketing program I created with a small group of co-workers five years ago under the name Live Search Club, is closing in May. Very few marketing programs endure more than a few months, so I’m proud this one lasted so long. It definitely way over-achieved on its original mission to get people to give our search a try.

It’s hard to believe how far search at Microsoft has advanced since we launched this program in 2007. Back then our share was in persistent decline, we were trying to link the search brand to Windows (at one point calling it Windows Live Search, which really confused people), and we had a relatively modest marketing budget. Although the core product had improved quite dramatically, most of our attempts to tell our story by buying media felt totally feckless, like shouting in a storm. We didn’t have enough money to break through, and since search seemed “solved” no one cared anyway.

We needed to try something different, so we decided instead to invest our marketing budget in what we called an “Engagement Platform.” Rather than buy a fleeting media impression or rent an inbound click, we decided to create one-to-one relationships with our users, turning them into members of our program. We realized to do this successfully we needed to make the program fun and entertaining, so we entered the casual games category and embedded search into the experiences. Instead of just claiming “our search is good”, we put fun little challenges in front of people and then let them use search to help solve them. People spent hours playing the games, using our search, and experiencing the brand, in the process learning “hey, this search product actually works!”

One of the other unique things we did was to power the Engagement Platform with small rewards, giving people an even stronger incentive to spend time with our search games. Each time people played the games and did searches they earned tickets which could be redeemed for prizes. Fun, entertaining, rewarding, and useful – the perfect combination of benefits to support a strong value proposition. We launched in May 2007 and the program immediately grew 100 times bigger than our highest expectations, dramatically impacting our share. No wonder the program lasted five years.

Games was only the start of our vision. We named the program Live Search Club instead of Live Search Games because we saw the Engagement Platform as the start of a broader loyalty program – membership in the club has its rewards. We aspired to expand the incentives beyond just doing searches as part of playing games and also include regular, everyday use of our search. I spent a lot of time with a vendor development team I hired to ensure we engineered the platform correctly to support this expansion. For me personally it was a lot of fun, and helped to define a fairly unique set of skills: I could do both marketing and engineering, and discovered that I could create powerful ways to combine these skills to drive positive business goals.

After the launch of the Club I left Microsoft for a few years and worked at a couple of start-ups. In my absence the program chugged along successfully even though it never really got a push to fulfill the broader vision. But the vision lingered, and in 2010 my previous manager Derrick Connell (now our Corporate VP) recruited me to come back and launch Bing Rewards. This is the program the Club was always meant to become, and we’re pretty happy with the results. So while nostalgia makes me a little sad to see the end of Club Bing, I’m happy to help the vision continue to grow and contribute to the success of Bing.

    

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Written by nealfreeland

February 16, 2012 at 12:01 am

4 Responses

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  1. Amazing it lasted so long. It’s great to see that a new awesome program has been created that is years ahead of where we were back 5 years ago creating the club.

    Laurel

    February 16, 2012 at 9:06 am

  2. I love Bing Rewards! I go every day to get my 20 searches in and always check for the “3 credits” special. The program has definitely encouraged me to explore Bing’s features and use the site instead of Google for searches. I redeem for MSPs! Great program, Neal!

    Ben

    February 17, 2012 at 11:53 am

  3. In the waning days of Club Bing I claimed 3 different prizes and received e-mail confirmation of all three. I received only one of the three prizes. I can’t seem to find anyplace to follow up on this issue now that Club Bing has been shut down. Any ideas on who i can contact to follow-up on my prizes? Thanks, Tom

    Tom

    November 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    • Hey Tom – Sorry to hear this. The confirmation emails should have details on how to contact support. It may be that since the program is shut down there is no longer support, though. Good luck!

      nealfreeland

      November 11, 2012 at 11:28 am


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