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How Microsoft increased its search market share with John Lewis

How Microsoft increased its search market share with John Lewis

‘Searching’ is the second most popular activity performed using the internet - the first being email. But Microsoft’s main competitor Google holds the monopoly in the UK and global search engine market.

In order for Microsoft to increase its market share, it ran the highly successful search promotion Big Snap in spring 2008. Building on this success Microsoft subsequently launched Big Snap 2, which ran from October 2008 to January 2009.


The task was to create a powerful and compelling campaign both on and offline to reach and engage with Microsoft’s target audience of general internet users aged 18-plus, with a particular bias toward families.

The main focus of Big Snap 2 was to incentivise consumers to perform day-to-day searches using Microsoft Live Search. Each time a unique search was made two playing cards were turned over with prizes on. If they both matched then that prize was awarded.

For this campaign Microsoft wanted to identify and recruit an appropriate ‘clicks and mortar’ retail brand as strategic partner whose brand appeal would attract a wide audience particularly during the Christmas gift season and the prevailing economic downturn.  

Microsoft’s main objective was to create an easy access promotion offering high value for all consumers and deliver a proposition that would increase the number of consumers using Live Search, therefore encouraging them to use it as their preferred search engine.


Big Snap 2 went live on October 20 with John Lewis Partnership (JLP), an exclusive partnership secured by integrated marketing agency SMP.

To use Big Snap 2, consumers were asked to perform a unique ‘Live’ search. Alternatively they could click through to see what other people were searching for at Christmas and perform one of these searches. When a unique search was performed, two animated John Lewis-branded playing cards appeared on the header span and flipped to reveal prize fund values of £25, £50, £100, £250 or £1000 JLP vouchers. If the cards matched, the player instantly won the amount featured. Users could make unlimited searches on Big Snap 2, but could only claim one prize per 24 hour period. All John Lewis vouchers were redeemable online and in-store at John Lewis, Peter Jones or Waitrose. A separate .com URL was also launched to capture the amount of users who used Big Snap 2 and entered the website as a result of any marketing related activity.   

The campaign incorporated various media channels including a comprehensive ‘money can’t buy’ media schedule spanning Microsoft’s own network. Adverts were featured across all MSN branded websites including two complete takeovers of the MSN homepage and banner ads featured in every UK Hotmail account inbox. In addition they targeted other websites such as Loquax, NMA, retailrightnow and Daily Mirror. Emails we sent out to the John Lewis database consisting of 1.6 million consumers.

Absolute radio, which rebranded from Virgin Radio during the campaign, ran several successful competitions for the first week of Big Snap 2: radio was the only medium where consumers could win the star prize of £10,000. Full page adverts also ran in the London regional papers Metro, Londonlite and Londonpaper to direct consumers to the Big Snap 2 website.


Big Snap 2 achieved outstanding results and exceeded all expectations. It also enabled Microsoft’s hit rate to peak at over one million searches in one day through a marketing initiative, the highest number ever achieved.

Big Snap 2 delivered a real consumer benefit and reward at low cost to both host (Microsoft) and partner (JLP). Overall £183K worth of John Lewis vouchers were issued over a period of 11 weeks. In addition, each time a prize was won the site would update in real time showing consumers the prize pool status.

At its peak in November 2008, Big Snap 2 recorded figures that were 921% higher than figures recorded in September 2008 via marketing entry point.

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