Thursday, March 10, 2005

Ask Jeeves, Or Not

The unintentionally funniest--and most poignant--line from Ask Jeeves CFO Steve Sordello's presentation yesterday at a Lehman conference came during his analysis of Ask Jeeves' brand awareness.

"Ask Jeeves has 80-85% aided brand awareness," Sordello told the audience. "That means, you go up to somebody and ask Do you know what Ask Jeeves is, they'll say Yeah, it's a search engine."

Sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, Sordello continued, unaided awareness is only 20-25%. Ask people to name search engines, and Jeeves only comes up one out of four or five times. "People know about us," Sordello explains, "they just don't recall us."

Yes. And people know who Weird Al Yankovic is, they just don't recall him.

Like all public companies with a hot past and a deteriorating future, Jeeves is trying its best to keep up with the Googles, buying up a slew of companies and turning on the spending faucet. "We think marketing here is gonna tremendously help close that gap" between those who know about Jeeves but don't bother to use it, Sordello declares rather hopefully.

It's a happy thought. But the reality is, Ask Jeeves' 15 minutes of fame--like Weird Al Yankovic's--looks just about up.

Jeff Matthews
I'm Not Making This Up


Cody Willard said...

I, for one, still find Weird Al hilarious! LOL

PS. Small posn long ASKJ too (size in GOOG and core in YHOO). Not long any Weird Al records, though I sure used to laugh at his videos.

The Unknown Broker said...

Well, if Google (GOOG) keeps on displaying the kind of arrogance and hubris shown in the following story, maybe there will be hope for the also-rans such as Ask Jeeves (ASKJ) after all.,,SB111040892549975165,00.html?mod=yahoo_hs&ru=yahoo

And by the way, Jeff. Don't be hatin' on my man Weird Al. The Weird One just won his third Grammy. The first one was in 1984, the second in 1988, and the third here in 2005. That's a span of 21 years.15 minutes. Ha!

Oh the poor uninitiated.

"Not long ago they criticized
The genius only wrote
And now they listen spellbound
With lumps caught in their throats

Ain’t he a genius
The boy’s become a star
And he smiles upon the faces
Who wish they could go far."
-- Jimmy Buffett Ain't He a Genius?"The Unknown (and Weird) Broker

BelowTheCrowd said...

And in this we see the difference between somebody who is well recognized in a niche market and a company that can't make it in the mainstream, but also can't figure out how to create a niche around itself.

Ask anybody to name a successful musical parody act and Weird Al's name would probably be the first one mentioned, though some classicists might prefer PDQ Bach.
Had you asked the same question 10 or even 20 years ago you probably would have heard the same answer. He's had five platinum and two gold albums, going back to 1983. Within his niche unique self-created niche he reigns supreme and has made himself a very nice living along the way.

Now to ASKJ. When they started, they had a slightly different twist on things. While it's hard to say exactly what went wrong, the fact is that their self-created niche never took off. Perhaps it just never resonated with the market, or perhaps it just was never promoted in the manner it should have been. Maybe management was too caught up in competing with the likes of Yahoo and Google to recognize that they had a unique opportunity to exploit.

Regardless, today they're just a "me too" search engine comparing themselves to the big boys in the business and naturally failing.

Here's the difference. Weird Al doesn't seek to compete with Michael Jackson or any of the other mainstream artists he parodies. He's not as big as them and doesn't try to pretend otherwise. He's invented his own very profitable niche that allows him to leverage their success to create his own. And for that, one has to give him credit for being a far better businessman than anybody over at Ask Jeeves.