AskJeeves.com Brings Back the Butler
Ask.com has reverted to its original brand – AskJeeves.com – in the UK, just three years after the iconic butler was dropped by the search engine. New Media Knowledge’s Chris Lee caught up with AskJeeves to find out why.
Search engine AskJeeves.com hit our computer screens in 1997 fronted by Jeeves, the butler made famous by PG Wodehouse’s books. Three years ago, the search engine rebranded as Ask.com and dispensed of Jeeves’ services but this week brought him back and reverted to Askjeeves in the UK due to popular demand. The butler, the company says, “embodies the spirit of British resourcefulness.”
The search engine has lost ground in the UK search engine space. According to ComScore, Ask.com has just two per cent of the search market, down from 2.6 per cent a year ago. Google is the runaway market leader with 77 per cent, although Ask.com is still the tenth most visited website in the country.
As part of the rebrand Jeeves has been given a makeover by Oscar-winning animation and visual effects studio Framestore, whose recent work includes The Golden Compass and Chronicles of Narnia.
The company announced: “Jeeves returns as a 3D character, complete with new styling from top Savile Row tailors, Gieves and Hawkes, who designed his new suit and tie. He can also be found on Twitter and Facebook where he will be posting daily questions of the day as well as accompanying images, videos and diaries.”
NMK caught up with AskJeeves.com’s PR director, Nadia Kelly, to see why the firm has taken these steps and just how it can claw back ground lost to Google.
What was the problem with Ask.com? Why did you lose ground in the search engine market under that brand?
There was no problem with the brand but three years after Jeeves left the site our users missed him. We looked at the awareness figures for both brands and AskJeeves was stronger even without advertising for three years. 83 per cent of users recognised that brand over 72 per cent for Ask.com, and that was with advertising. We realised we had a great brand asset which we had locked in the cupboard and had data from customer satisfaction survey that showed they wanted Jeeves back. Jeeves is closely associated with providing answers.
How did you know the decline in market share was a branding issue and nothing to do with the effectiveness of the search engine?
We believe there are four things users demand when choosing a search engine - speed, appearance, results and perception.
AskJeeves is three times as fast as last year and easily as good as its competitors. We have a simple two-column design for ease-of-use, too. To make results as relevant as possible we’ve put a lot of proprietary technology into the back end to further improve results.
That just leaves perception and we knew we had to invest in marketing. Users love and want Jeeves, so we’ve brought him back.
Just how does a search engine compete with Google? What can you do differently to gain ground back?
The first thing to remember is search market is huge and incredibly profitable. It is growing and there’s room for more than one player in the market. We have 15 million unique users per month in the UK, we’re the tenth most popular site in the country and we reach 40 per cent of the global Internet population.
How and when will you judge whether reverting to AskJeeves is a success?
It’s something we’ll constantly assess. We’ve got the right pieces in place to achieve success. Jeeves is seen as warm and adding a human touch, so we’re confident.
What associated marketing have you got lined up to re-educate the market on your re-branding?
Our TV ad campaign broke this week and we’re also running print and online advertising. There will also be a series of promotions, sponsorships and PR. If you go to the home page you’ll see Jeeves and if you click on him you’ll see a blog, competitions and a link to his Facebook group. AskJeeves is all about questions and answers.