Fascinating and slightly intimidating research reported in Adage this week about internal research at Google, which suggests that as long as you badge it Google, user perception and preference on search results goes up, even if it's not Google's results.
The research which took search results from other search engines and then re-badged them and retreated them with the Google styling, found that people still preferred them to the results of other engines.
Its a damning insight that puts the kybosh on the 'build a better mousetrap' scenarios that have pre-occupied every search engine for years in trying to win market share from Google. It also illustrates very clearly the power of the brand, suggesting that only a major drawn out brand building offensive is likely to have any impact for Microsoft, in its war to acquire decent search distribution.
Whilst the search battleground is littered with expensive campaigns that failed miserably, like the Ask Jeeves one, the "I'm a PC campaign" seems to be holding its own very well on Mac front, so this shows that maybe it is possible to win the consumer with a clever brand building message. Although that 6-year-old girl and her up-linked digital camera continues to make me feel technically inferior.
Historically Apple has also been a far closer to the bone threat than Google,and thus the offensive seems quite in place and justified. Maybe MS has finally decided Google is as equal a threat as Apple, and has decided to open up a war on another front.
Let's hope there aren't any Russian winters lurking out there for them.