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The Search Branding Wars

By - February 14, 2005

ValentineWith Yahoo spending on its search launch last year, MSFT reportedly going well into nine (yes, nine) figures on its MSN Search marketing campaign all this year, and now Ask getting into the ring, the search branding wars have begun. The question is, does it at all matter?

I certainly understand the desire to frame and catalyze your brand with television, it’s quite a good medium for that. And Ask certainly suffers from a long hangover from its last marketing push, back in that bubble era, when it made far more promises than it could keep.

But somehow television feels so – hopeless. I doubt this is going to move the needle. What will? Grassoots buzz, the kind that began to build with the acquisition of Teoma, then Bloglines, and might continue should Ask keep up those kinds of moves, and succeed in some kind of integration play that yields superior online services. Ask’s recent flirtations with the open source world is also interesting. In any case, it can never outspend Microsoft, which of all the companies in this space just might bull its way into the consumer’s mind with the blunt instrument of a TV marketing spend. I’m not saying Ask is wasting its money (well, maybe I am). In the end, as good as those Chiat Day ads might be, the money might better be spent on the product itself.

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10 thoughts on “The Search Branding Wars

  1. Brian says:

    Here’s a pic I took of Jeeves at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I didn’t see a Bill Gates one… but man 9 figures is a lot of dough.

  2. “the money might better be spent on the product itself”

    That’s what I told so many companies during the dot-com bubble. Most of them didn’t listen. Ask Jeeves probably won’t listen to you either.

    A shame, because there are many ways search can be improved in terms of user experience. (And many other ways too, of course, but when you watch people make mistake after mistake with current search engines, you realize how far we have to go.)

  3. MUSCLE13 says:

    You couldn’t be more wrong John. Technology is only great if people know about it.This isn’t the early 2000’s when Google was head and shoulders above every search engine in quality of search. The average internet user can’t tell the difference between the search quality of Ask, Google, Yahoo or MSN. Branding makes the difference now. Its about time Jeeves promoted to the masses.

  4. Hey Muscle –

    Well, what is brand? It’s not a commercial, it’s a distinction. I am not sure there is enough of one to merit the marketing, I guess.

  5. MUSCLE13 says:

    I think there is a huge distinction between the Ask Jeeves of today and the Ask Jeeves of 1999. If you ask most average internet users about Ask Jeeves they will tell you “Isn’t that one of those web sites from years ago during the bubble? Are they still around??” Jeeves needs branding badly. May I add BADLY! Not all internet users read search engine blogs and keep up to date with what is happening on the net.

  6. MUSCLE13 says:

    By the way John, I watched 60 minutes and you came across as the smartest guy in the whole piece. I love reading your blog.

  7. Point taken, Muscle. They are, or were, in a hole. I think the big question is whether there is enough of a distinction in results, yet anyway, to merit a switch for the typical consumer.

  8. MUSCLE13 says:

    They don’t need people to switch. Most people use more than one search engine. They need people to give em a try. First step – Jeeves still exists and is as good or even better than Google. My guess – diffentiation will occur with an integration of MyWay into Ask. Just guessing

  9. MUSCLE13 says:

    Should say “differentiation”. Sorry, I am not the proofreader in the family. My wife is.

  10. MUSCLE13 says:

    John – Watch American Idol tonight.