Jack Trout: How Microsoft Can Beat Google

From an article by Frederick Markini, The Coming Search Engine War, Part 1 :
“Exactly how can Microsoft trump Google, which possesses dominant market share and the preeminent search brand? I asked Jack Trout, the advertising pioneer and president of Trout and Partners, to offer his thoughts. As you may know, Jack is an advertising legend, having authored the very first article on the concept of “positioning” back in 1969. His landmark book, co-authored with former cohort Al Ries, was called “Positioning, The Battle For Your Mind.” It offered the radical theory that products are positioned not in a market, but in the minds of customers. He went on to author the classic “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing,” and most recently, “Big Brands, Big Trouble.”
Jack says Google is dangerously close to becoming the generic in the space. Should that happen, the company would be open to brand and product positioning attacks on multiple fronts.
“Microsoft has only one available strategy [to beat Google]: They need to position their new search service as the ‘next generation,'” Trout told me. Microsoft, he explained, should not try to claim its new search engine is “better,” because that won’t win. “The only way you beat Google is by being ‘what’s next.’ [Internet searchers] will switch to the ‘next thing,’ but Google already owns the current ‘best’ thing,” said Trout. “The Google offering must be positioned into a corner by Microsoft, positioned as the old product. If anyone could pull off this strategy, it would be Microsoft.”
In “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing,” Trout defines “The Law of Leadership” being based on the premise that everyone remembers the first of something. The Wright brothers built the first airplane. Who built the second one? George Washington was the first president of the United States. Who was second?
OK, but here’s the exception. If you cannot be first in the market, the third Immutable Law of Marketing, “The Law Of The Mind,” modifies the Law Of Leadership: It is better to be first in the mind than to be first in the market. A series of first-to-market products no longer exist: the Hurley washing machine, the Du Mont television, the MITS Altair 8800 personal computer — all were beaten by the second to market. First in the mind trumps first-to-market.
Google was hardly the first search engine, but due to its remarkable success and relevancy, it now is first in the mind. First in the mind doesn’t require oodles of cash. For a time, Apple enjoyed a leadership position with seed money of $91,000 and a more interesting name. Google won it with a hyper-focus its core business: search. Others have since made gains in relevancy and some believe both Inktomi and FAST are on par. Still, Google is the perceived market leader, and “equal to,” even “better,” doesn’t win against that positioning in the mind. That’s a near impossible brand position to unseat… again, unless you’re Microsoft.
Most of us remember that Netscape was the first browser and enjoyed the dominant position — until Microsoft used the power of its operating system to take that market away. Based on my casual conversations with various Google folks, I get the sense that there is an organizational belief they can thwart Microsoft by simply focusing on the user experience. The lesson of Netscape should cause them to shudder and plan alternative defenses.”
More here.