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Ask.com Drops the Butler


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#1 Guest_rustybrick_*

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 03:16 PM

Or at least it will happen soon according to TheStreet.com.

It will be known as Ask.com

Blogosphere links:
http://blog.searchen...g/050921-155644
http://searchviews.c...jeeves_actu.php
http://www.seobook.c...es/001189.shtml

and mine:
http://www.seroundta...ves/002551.html

Thoughts on the name change?

#2 bwelford

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 05:42 PM

Great news. To my mind it was a no-brainer to do this. I'm surprised Barry Diller didn't do this within a few weeks of buying A(J).

#3 randfish

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 05:47 PM

http://www.seomoz.or...tail.php?ID=406 - Grrr.. I think it's a terrible idea. What do they have going for them except the branding via the butler?

#4 bwelford

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 06:12 PM

What they have going is the best technology to give you an answer when you ASK a question. It's always tough to drop something that's been around for some time but you've got to decide what is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and then go with that. I believe the way they use their Teoma technology means they do provide answers to questions better than the others.

Google et al have successfully brainwashed us to believe that the way to find out stuff is to do a keyword search. I don't believe that's how we teach our kids to find out stuff in schools. We encourage them to ask questions. That forces them to think how best to frame the question so as to find the answer they're looking for. We don't suggest they throw out a few keywords.

It clearly was a major decision to abandon that old butler (after all I'm a Brit). However if they do this right and bring all their house brands in line with this new orientation to ASK questions, I believe they can come up through the middle of the horse race.

#5 travis

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Posted 27 September 2005 - 05:24 PM

There are some people in marketing who say you should never change your core brand logo and image.

http://www.cnn.com/2...s.ap/index.html

Its probably more true when your company becomes very large. The BMW logo is not fantastic, but I dont see it going anywhere.

#6 projectphp

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Posted 27 September 2005 - 09:57 PM

I bet most people have never heard of Ask Jeeves, and the Butler is probably as well known as the opposition leader in New Zealand in the wider world.

Now is the right time to rebrand for Ask, before they really have a brand worth preserving.

#7 bragadocchio

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Posted 27 September 2005 - 11:08 PM

Add me to the (probably small) group of folks who think that they should get behind the Teoma name, and build it into something that focuses upon the technology, the relevance of results, and the future promise it holds.

OK, that may be silly considering the value of ASK as a brand name, or even the recognition (in some circles) of the Butler, who was not too long ago marching down the middle of Manhattan in holiday parades.

But, how much brand loyalty do people have these days? How often is brand confused with a logo, or a mascot? Is it better, when I think of a search engine to use, for me to consider choosing between a Google that appears to want to expand way beyond search these days, a Yahoo! that may still be thought of by people more as a directory and a portal than a search engine, and an Ask Jeeves that use to emphasize asking questions, and had a butler for a mascot?

And "Ask" really hasn't been the focus of the search engine for a while.

When we lost the "fat" butler, we also lost the:

"Greetings. Please enter your search or your question."

or the even earlier:

"Have a question? Just type it in and click ASK.

It's been a while since askjeeves focused upon people typing in full questions, and it's possible that they dropped that because they weren't able to answer those questions all that well.

I liked this article from Wired last November titled The Decline of Brands

I think it pinpoints that the issue really isn't whether or not AskJeeves gets rid of the Butler, or changes their name. It's whether or not they give people something they want.

Annual rankings of brand value are littered with examples of firms that watched billions of dollars in supposed "brand equity" vanish - not because they messed with their identities, but simply because they didn't make a product or deliver a service that people needed.


There are some nice features that the Askjeeves search engine provides. The "narrow your search," "expand your search," and "related names," features on a search are very helpful.

Sandwiching "web results" between top and bottom "sponsored results" makes me think less of them. Rather than focusing on whether to give Jeeves his walking papers, how about focusing upon, and strengthening their USP? Losing that bottom set of sponsored results might be a better thing to start with giving the butler his walking papers.

#8 bwelford

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 06:18 AM

I certainly think 'Ask Jeeves' should be thinking about a USP. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Barry Diller thinks about USP's.

“It is potentially the glue for almost all of our services,” Diller said of Ask.com, adding that the site will begin operating in China next year. “Our job is to increase Ask’s market share.”

I'm not sure I would look to the product side of things to suggest where the USP might be, although I too think the Teoma technology is very fine. I would rather be looking at it from the customer benefit point-of-view. I found their question/answer approach novel and really liked their clustering output after that. I still think ASK is the fastest way of getting into that, although ABOUT and ANSWER now provide strong competition.

#9 MUSCLE13

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Posted 29 September 2005 - 02:15 PM

I seriously doubt any user cares whether they are called Ask Jeeves or Ask.com. The main thing is to get that quality search tech in front of as many users eyeballs as possible. That's where IAC comes into focus. Search distribution through multibrands is the key.

#10 MUSCLE13

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 01:52 PM

Here is the main issue. Get the Ask search box in front of all the Interactive Corp. users and get them to try it out. User numbers according to Nielsen

United States: Top 10 Parent Companies
Week ending September 19, 2005
Home Panel

Parent Name Unique
Audience
(000) Reach
% Time
Per
Person
1. Microsoft 56,515 51.06 00:33:36
2. Time Warner 52,144 47.11 01:30:09
3. Yahoo! 51,915 46.90 00:57:10
4. Google 38,262 34.57 00:11:11
5. eBay 20,312 18.35 00:48:01
6. InterActiveCorp 15,698 14.18 00:10:44
7. United States Government 15,004 13.56 00:10:52
8. RealNetworks 13,541 12.23 00:22:58
9. Walt Disney Internet Group 10,643 9.62 00:16:39
10.Viacom International 10,617 9.59 00:24:08

#11 bwelford

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 02:36 PM

Those are impressive numbers, MUSCLE13. I'm still not sure how you then best grow all these businesses if ASK is only the glue among them as Barry Diller described it. Does the glue form any part of the Unique Selling Proposition that any one of the individual businesses will use to help it grow?

#12 MUSCLE13

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 03:20 PM

My opinion - All the IAC businesses have different segments of the internet audiences they appeal to. HSN, Ticketmaster, LendingTree, iWon, MyWay, Ask.com etc. They are all good businesses - search, portals commerce. The trick is to get the people on all the sites to use the Ask search box. Sounds simple. The simplest ideas are usually the best ideas.

#13 randfish

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 04:00 PM

Yes, but why, when I search ticketmaster.com using Ask, would I then turn to them again when I need windshield repair... Chances are, I'm going to Yahoo! or Google or MSN. Not so simple is making the connection from a site search box to a global Internet search utility.

#14 MUSCLE13

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 04:15 PM

Maybe, just maybe, if you like the results you see, you will use Ask again. If you go to another search engine there is still a significant percentage of people who use the search that is at the top of a page just for convenience sake. Thus Ask's market share will increase substantially even if they only can get some users to use the search box on the IAC web page sometimes. Distribution strategy is key here.

My contention is search technology will even out among the big 4. I think it already has. It will come down to marketing and distribution.

#15 bwelford

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 04:26 PM

We agree on that, MUSCLE13: search technology certainly as perceived by most users will even out among the big 4. It will come down to marketing and distribution.

That's the crux. How can ASK be used in the marketing strategies of HSN, Ticketmaster, LendingTree, iWon, MyWay etc. in a way that will help ASK to grow strongly?

#16 projectphp

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 07:21 PM

Ask lacks any influencing power. Google got the geeks, and the geeks got 'em everyone else. Ask has no one.

Maybe they should just suck it up and be the Apple of search: great product, small market share. If that small share is a desirable demographic, say stay at home mums who are technophobic, then their own CPC becomes useful as well.

As it stands, they are a small market share with no "buzz". Why would anyone use Ask, except as a clock, and why would anyone bother with their CPC programme? Give some people want they uniquely want, and tell those ppl why they should use your SE, and you have a site with value for advertisers and people.

Maybe that is the reason they Butler went. Maybe they want the stay at home mums, and a butler didn't do it for them. Maybe Ask The Pool Cleaner is a better fit ;)

#17 MUSCLE13

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 11:23 PM

We agree on that, MUSCLE13: search technology certainly as perceived by most users will even out among the big 4. It will come down to marketing and distribution.  

That's the crux. How can ASK be used in the marketing strategies of HSN, Ticketmaster, LendingTree, iWon, MyWay etc. in a way that will help ASK to grow strongly?


I am glad we agree BWelford, but I am afraid I don't have an answer to your question. I think all the brands have to be marketed separately since they appeal to different segments. I also believe Ask has to be heavily marketed through TV and radio (mass market brand awareness) and I think I read that they are going to spend $30 million on that shortly. Very smart. But how you work in the marketing of Ask into the marketing of the other brands I have no clue. If you can come with a plan that would be very cool. I don't have a good answer to that question. Certainly distribution wise combinations work. Marketing-wise? Thats a really good question. Thats thinking outside the box. I hope people at IAC read that question.

#18 bwelford

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Posted 01 October 2005 - 06:57 AM

Well, MUSCLE13, I think there is another way. I think the marketing strategy can only be applied to ASK and then let its strength be leveraged out through all its sibling brands.

projectphp points the way. If you want to know what is the time in Montreal, ask ASK. None of the other major search engines will tell you that, not even Teoma. Answers.com or About.com give you some information about Montreal but nothing about the time.

It's a small example, but powerful I think. What ASK.com should do is make sure that it can answer every question with a relevant answer. I would guess it's well along the way. All they need to do is add a small box asking for feedback if the answer isn't too good, suggesting how it could have been better. In no time at all, ASK could be the best way to get your questions answered.

I hope the IAC cheque will be in the mail shortly. ;)

#19 MUSCLE13

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Posted 01 October 2005 - 12:35 PM

Case in point. A couple of months ago iWon started using Ask.com search exclusively. Now as you can see by the numbers iWon search accounts for 3% of Ask's worldwide traffic.

http://www.alexa.com...&q=&url=ask.com

Distribution among multibrands is the key. Ask search has to be distributed among all the IAC brands.

#20 bwelford

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 01:21 PM

Well finally they've relaunched Ask.com. It took a few months but they've taken the Focus, Focus, Focus advice I was giving them. :D

You can hear Barry Diller's keynote address at SES NY here.
Afterthought afterthoughtOops. That link doesn't seem to be working yet. I'll see if I can find another one in the interim.

<later 16:14 EST> seems to be working now, but you'll have to wait through some radio ads for Bruce Clay and PRWeb before getting to it.

Edited by bwelford, 27 February 2006 - 04:15 PM.


#21 bwelford

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 01:51 PM

Still can't find the live link for the podcast, but if you want confirmation just see what they've done to Teoma, which used to be found at http://www.teoma.com
<edit - as above, link is now live>

Edited by bwelford, 27 February 2006 - 04:16 PM.


#22 phaithful

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 02:00 AM

* Off Topic *

But shouldn't this forum be renamed to drop Jeeves as well?

;-)

#23 bragadocchio

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 08:28 AM

I liked the butler, but I think you're right about renaming the forum here.

I've changed it. :)



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