Anyone with a marketing background (or who has taken a marketing course) should be familiar with the Coke-Pepsi taste test. I’m a rabid Diet Coke drinker myself, and loudly proclaim my dislike of Pepsi. When presented with the two drinks sans packaging, I can identify them about 50% of the time. The shape of the packaging affects the perception of the product.
So then with search engines. Seth Godin points out an informal study suggesting that, in a blind test, MSN, Yahoo and Google are pretty much even.
Just as everywhere else, a lot of perception is bound up in the branding. Some of this is legacy: when Google first came out, it really was the best search engine out there. Google’s success made the space competitive again, and the other vendors have had years to catch up. In many ways, Google is still coasting on a period of technical superiority that ended at least two years ago–showing how valuable such a lead can be, and how adroit management of consumer perceptions can extend its value.
Maybe this is why Google’s hiring practices focus so much on a visible intellectual elite. A company hiring all those PhDs must be using them for something.
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