Can Microsoft’s negative anti-Google tactics really work?

Google’s dominance of the online ad market makes it an easy target for those inclined to criticise it, especially given its former “don’t be evil” motto, and not to mention its controversial tax arrangements.

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But Microsoft’s strategy of decrying the search giant as part of an ‘evil empire’ is severely flawed especially given its own history of accusations of bullying and monopolistic practices.

Microsoft this week rekindled its anti-Google ‘Scroogled’ campaign earlier this week with the launch of a clothing line that also lets members of the public lambast Google’s privacy policies.

The line includes items bearing slogans ranging from ‘Keep Calm while we steal your data’ to a shirt with the Chrome logo disguised as a stereotypical private detective along side the slogan ‘I’m watching You’.

In a strange quirk of fate, the launch comes the same week as the pair agreed to take joint action in a bid to prevent the dissemination of child abuse images online by blocking a number of search terms on their respective engines. But then again, who wants to be known as: ‘The paedo’s search engine’?

However, while Microsoft may have launched a highly impactful campaign – most notably for its unorthodox practice of employing negative tactics – and while it may have a point in raising concerns over Google’s fast and loose approach to data privacy; I can’t help but feel it is folly.

After all, Microsoft, which trails Google by an extremely large margin in the online advertising, search and mobile OS sectors, runs the risk of being seek like a sore loser. And that itself can put people off a brand.

Except for that is outright hypocrisy. And in taking such a stance Microsoft – which used to be the company everybody loved to hate in the 1990s and early 2000s for its monopolistic tactics.

Remember the ‘Browser Wars’ that pitted Microsoft’s Internet Explorer against the Netscape Navigator in the mid-1990s anyone?

Of course, I need not mention how Microsoft’s business practices incurred the wrath of the US Federal Government, which slapped it with an anti-trust case, which raged on for three years, only to be settled with the software giant agreeing to play nice with smaller companies.

Having briefly checked some of the comments on our website and those appearing on social networks about the story, the vast majority of Marketing Week readers appear to agree with me on this.

Although at the same time, I do invite Microsoft’s marketers to plead their defence here on our pages.  Please feel free to do so, if that’s what you want to do.

So while Google is far from innocent in its practices, Microsoft should really bear in mind the simplest of lessons in reputation management: ‘People living in glasses houses should never throw stones.’

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