#F@*%BING: Why the Bing tweet was so bad

By Kip Kniskern | Posted March 12, 2011 43 comments

This morning, someone from the Bing PR team, in an effort to join in the efforts to help the victims of the recent Japan earthquake and tsunami, learned what happens when your PR efforts for a multi-billion dollar enterprise are amateurish and inexcusably poorly thought out. 

A tweet from the @Bing Twitter account promised to donate a dollar for every retweet, up to $100,000.  Enlisting the help of Bing promoters and celebrities Ryan Seacrest and Alyssa Milano, the tweet was retweeted lots of times.  It was also, however, seen as a crass attempt to cash in on the misfortunes of others, was quickly denounced by both tweets and blog posts, and launched a counter campaign on Twitter using an unprintable hashtag.  While the hashtag didn’t make it to “Trending Topics”, it was used well over 100 times, meaning it was probably seen by thousands of Twitter users.

We noticed the commotion this morning, checked a number of times for a Bing response (it eventually took almost 7 hours after the first tweet for @Bing to issue an apology), and posted.  We also reached out to members of the Bing team to ask that they respond to the criticism, and we’re sure numerous others did as well.

So why did the Bing tweet fail, when other efforts, notably Google’s People Finder, not get as much negative attention?  Let’s look at 4 main reasons:

  1. The #hashtaggers were outraged that Bing couldn’t make a donation without asking for something (exposure for their twitter account and their brand) in return, and they were right.
  2. Bing has established itself as an aggressive marketer, willing to go to almost any lengths to promote the Bing brand.  The Bing Bar, “Club Bing”, aggressive marketing deals, the list goes on and on.  Bing is no stranger to pushing its brand, and there wasn’t much reason to assume any different this time. 
  3. Kenneth Cole just made the same mistake, got lambasted for it, and had to backtrack.  That was only a few weeks ago, and was well covered.  There just isn’t any excuse not to know that glomming your brand name on to a tragedy doesn’t fly.
  4. The response time was inexcusably slow, as is the norm with just about anything coming out of Redmond.  Time and time again Microsoft proves that they “just don’t get it” when it comes to dealing in our instant-on / always-on world.  Make a mistake, ok.  Don’t pay any attention to the backlash?  Inexcusable.

We were embarrassed today by the Bing PR team’s unprofessionalism, intentional or not, in the face of an unfathomable tragedy.  We’re not sure if they need to be cleaning out their desks, or if they even realize why the tweet was so wrong, but somebody at Bing needs to get a clue.

Donate to the Red Cross

Posted March 12th, 2011 at 7:56 pm
Category: Opinion
Tags: Bing, Japan, Twitter
  • John

    Meanwhile, many of the people blasting Bing wont do a damn thing for Japan themselves. Its easy to criticize, much harder to actually make a difference.

  • John

    Meanwhile, many of the people blasting Bing wont do a damn thing for Japan themselves. Its easy to criticize, much harder to actually make a difference.

  • Omen1337

    Why wasn’t there a backlash when Microsoft decided to donate money to charity for every download they received for IE8?

  • Omen1337

    Why wasn’t there a backlash when Microsoft decided to donate money to charity for every download they received for IE8?

  • FakeDhempe

    Don’t see anything wrong here. Nobody is a saint here – everyone who donates to Japan does it to feel good about themselves, so in effect, it is a selfish act. So why should Bing be any different. Political correctness does not make one an angel.

    • john

      The idea that you somehow know everyones motivation for donating is nothing short of pathetic.

  • FakeDhempe

    Don’t see anything wrong here. Nobody is a saint here – everyone who donates to Japan does it to feel good about themselves, so in effect, it is a selfish act. So why should Bing be any different. Political correctness does not make one an angel.

    • john

      The idea that you somehow know everyones motivation for donating is nothing short of pathetic.

  • Anonymous

    imagine that, the media making news out of nothing…who cares, they found a novel way to donate 100k to charity and people get pissed off. How this is news is beyond me.

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      The “news” is that a) there was quite a backlash, not from the media but from everyday Twitter users, and b) that it took so long for them to respond, angering those commenters even more.

  • FromMyCube

    imagine that, the media making news out of nothing…who cares, they found a novel way to donate 100k to charity and people get pissed off. How this is news is beyond me.

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      The “news” is that a) there was quite a backlash, not from the media but from everyday Twitter users, and b) that it took so long for them to respond, angering those commenters even more.

  • Caschatte

    Meanwhile, microsoft continues to verify that they, there, somewhere, in an obstinate cloud, do not live in the real world…

  • Caschatte

    Meanwhile, microsoft continues to verify that they, there, somewhere, in an obstinate cloud, do not live in the real world…

  • http://twitter.com/RowdyBullGaming RowdyBullGaming

    #F@*% Liveside this was a dumb article hey are not the first to do this type of charity raising! You know they are gonna give $100k and that is only one team from microsfoft who will donate millions in aid. After I retweeted I felt like I was doing something and I decided to donate and extra $10 from my pocket… Probable would have done it if I didn’t read the bing ad! To me it worked and it is advertising and it is getting people to join in!

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      Thanks for donating, and we don’t want to take anything away from the effort to encourage donations. Our comments are directed at the backlash that Bing received, and why, not their honest, if misguided efforts to help

  • http://twitter.com/RowdyBullGaming Ray

    #F@*% Liveside this was a dumb article hey are not the first to do this type of charity raising! You know they are gonna give $100k and that is only one team from microsfoft who will donate millions in aid. After I retweeted I felt like I was doing something and I decided to donate and extra $10 from my pocket… Probable would have done it if I didn’t read the bing ad! To me it worked and it is advertising and it is getting people to join in!

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      Thanks for donating, and we don’t want to take anything away from the effort to encourage donations. Our comments are directed at the backlash that Bing received, and why, not their honest, if misguided efforts to help

  • Mario Albertico

    I’m with the folks who think this particular case was profusely blown out of proportion. I would genuinely believe that the Bing folks who came up with this had the right intentions. The idea seemed like “Hey, let’s make it easy for anyone to donate a $1, just retweet; can’t be easier than that, right?” In the process, some people might have realized that it’s not hard to do their part and then proceeded to donate some more elsewhere. But, if at the same time, Bing got any brand recognition, it’s not like they were saying “Hey Twitter! If you perform a search for ‘Cheap Japan travel,’ we’ll donate a $1 on your behalf” then I would see it deserve the attention people are giving. I see no difference in companies using the (PRODUCT)^RED campaign to sell more of their stuff (and get brand awareness), but give the money to charity. Bing made helping easy, maybe too easy, and that made some people wary of the “evil” corporate greed, which could be easily attached to a huge company like Microsoft. If anything, the only thing I could have hoped the Bing team handled differently was the PR response time, and they could have also clarified that regardless how many RT’s were done, that they were going to donate a set amount.

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      If for example, @Bing would have said “we’re giving $100k, please help, too”, it might have been different. They didn’t though, they said “we’ll give $1 for every retweet”, in effect paying for brand promotion. Again, we don’t fault the desire to help, but this was poorly handled.

      • Mario Albertico

        I would guess that they were simply trying to figure out a way to get people into the “giving” process…and if anything else, just getting people to see that Bing is “charitable.” But I do, of course, see that something like “We are giving 100K, find out how you can help Japan with Bing” and then linking to some charity listing on Bing would have been a better 2-in-1.

      • Mario Albertico

        Kip, forgot to add that I don’t think you’re blowing it up further here on LiveSide; it’s clear you guys are being critical about the PR response and realization about this whole thing (which is valid), but the whole F-word #hashtag and the rest of the web’s response seems to just be taking advantage of a Bing mishap.

  • Mario Albertico

    I’m with the folks who think this particular case was profusely blown out of proportion. I would genuinely believe that the Bing folks who came up with this had the right intentions. The idea seemed like “Hey, let’s make it easy for anyone to donate a $1, just retweet; can’t be easier than that, right?” In the process, some people might have realized that it’s not hard to do their part and then proceeded to donate some more elsewhere. But, if at the same time, Bing got any brand recognition, it’s not like they were saying “Hey Twitter! If you perform a search for ‘Cheap Japan travel,’ we’ll donate a $1 on your behalf” then I would see it deserve the attention people are giving. I see no difference in companies using the (PRODUCT)^RED campaign to sell more of their stuff (and get brand awareness), but give the money to charity. Bing made helping easy, maybe too easy, and that made some people wary of the “evil” corporate greed, which could be easily attached to a huge company like Microsoft. If anything, the only thing I could have hoped the Bing team handled differently was the PR response time, and they could have also clarified that regardless how many RT’s were done, that they were going to donate a set amount.

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      If for example, @Bing would have said “we’re giving $100k, please help, too”, it might have been different. They didn’t though, they said “we’ll give $1 for every retweet”, in effect paying for brand promotion. Again, we don’t fault the desire to help, but this was poorly handled.

      • Mario Albertico

        I would guess that they were simply trying to figure out a way to get people into the “giving” process…and if anything else, just getting people to see that Bing is “charitable.” But I do, of course, see that something like “We are giving 100K, find out how you can help Japan with Bing” and then linking to some charity listing on Bing would have been a better 2-in-1.

      • Mario Albertico

        Kip, forgot to add that I don’t think you’re blowing it up further here on LiveSide; it’s clear you guys are being critical about the PR response and realization about this whole thing (which is valid), but the whole F-word #hashtag and the rest of the web’s response seems to just be taking advantage of a Bing mishap.

  • Anonymous

    This is no worse than any other company that says they’ll donate X dollars to Y charity for every purchase up to Z amount. Have you ever seen the Pink Yogurt caps that you have to buy then send in to get the 10 cents donation made? They have people walk in the name of a worthy cause and donate a particular amount every mile they go with a coroporate logos all over them. There are so many companies out there using charity as a way to sell more products or promote thier brand by advertising all over whatever it is you have to do for them to make a donation that this is just drop in the normal bucket.

    • http://www.richspalding.com RichSpalding

      Totally agree, loads of companies do similar, but the difference is they require a purchase before they will donate. No one asks them why they don’t donate out of the goodness of their hearts. Bing’s idea is ‘no purchase necessary’ donating.

      The only difference is the timing of this story around a very raw large scale event. If they said the same for a Cancer charity it wouldn’t be ‘news’, yet people are dieing of cancer all the time.

  • hysonmb

    This is no worse than any other company that says they’ll donate X dollars to Y charity for every purchase up to Z amount. Have you ever seen the Pink Yogurt caps that you have to buy then send in to get the 10 cents donation made? They have people walk in the name of a worthy cause and donate a particular amount every mile they go with a coroporate logos all over them. There are so many companies out there using charity as a way to sell more products or promote thier brand by advertising all over whatever it is you have to do for them to make a donation that this is just drop in the normal bucket.

    • http://www.richspalding.com RichSpalding

      Totally agree, loads of companies do similar, but the difference is they require a purchase before they will donate. No one asks them why they don’t donate out of the goodness of their hearts. Bing’s idea is ‘no purchase necessary’ donating.

      The only difference is the timing of this story around a very raw large scale event. If they said the same for a Cancer charity it wouldn’t be ‘news’, yet people are dieing of cancer all the time.

  • Custom Computers

    You tried Kip to expose the misguided judgement of a corporate environment always behind the (-8) ball.

  • Custom Computers

    You tried Kip to expose the misguided judgement of a corporate environment always behind the (-8) ball.

  • Conan007

    “Bing couldn’t make a donation without asking for something in turn”
    Microsoft is a company, not a charity, what a news! How much money do those people who criticize Bing donate?

  • Conan007

    “Bing couldn’t make a donation without asking for something in turn”
    Microsoft is a company, not a charity, what a news! How much money do those people who criticize Bing donate?

  • http://www.ratdiary.com spragued

    I agree with you — they screwed up. They made it look like the donation was conditional on people getting the word out on Bing. Clumsy and offensive.

  • http://www.ratdiary.com spragued

    I agree with you — they screwed up. They made it look like the donation was conditional on people getting the word out on Bing. Clumsy and offensive.

  • http://www.ratdiary.com/ spragued

    I agree with you — they screwed up. They made it look like the donation was conditional on people getting the word out on Bing. Clumsy and offensive.

  • Steve Jobs

    Non story. Would you rather they did nothing? Bill Gates and Co. give billions to charity efforts as it is, I am not going to judge them for how they want to give away $100,000 of their money.

  • Steve Jobs

    Non story. Would you rather they did nothing? Bill Gates and Co. give billions to charity efforts as it is, I am not going to judge them for how they want to give away $100,000 of their money.

  • http://twitter.com/bradshawhistory John Bradshaw

    I really don’t understand–is this “outrage” for the purposes of ourtage? I think anyone with 1/2 a brain knew they were going to donate the $100k anyway.

  • http://twitter.com/bradshawhistory John Bradshaw

    I really don’t understand–is this “outrage” for the purposes of ourtage? I think anyone with 1/2 a brain knew they were going to donate the $100k anyway.

  • T0ny000

    LiveSide.net just came off my RSS reader. What a joke if a website needs to try this hard to make a story out of nothing in hopes of getting some PR of their own. #F-Bing used over 100 times… OOooooo. are you kidding me. You call that a backlash? It looks like you guys are the ones not living in the real world. Go hug your mac.

  • T0ny000

    LiveSide.net just came off my RSS reader. What a joke if a website needs to try this hard to make a story out of nothing in hopes of getting some PR of their own. #F-Bing used over 100 times… OOooooo. are you kidding me. You call that a backlash? It looks like you guys are the ones not living in the real world. Go hug your mac.