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E-Marketing Performance Blog

If Ask.com = Target then Google = Walmart

In a bold move, Ask.com has risked its 1.01% share of the search engine market by positioning itself as the Target of the search world… forcing me to make the obvious comparison between Google and Wal-Mart.

Consider this: Who can compete with Wal-Mart on price? No one. If you are a store and you sell, pretty much anything, then it will crush you beneath its giant, omnipotent smiley face. So how did Target survive its battle with the juggernaut? Target offers something Wal-Mart can’t: a fun experience. It’s cute, it’s cuddly and you can admit to your friends you go there. Shopping at Wal-Mart on the other hand, offers a glimpse into a nightmarish hell from which you only escape with a fraction of your sanity.

Likewise, how can a little search engine compete with Google? Offer a better experience. Now, Google may not be filled with screaming children and lumbering, mulleted employees, but its strength has never been its ambiance.

Enter the new Ask.com. It’s cute, it’s got great atmosphere, and best of all it has hot chicks with swords.

Attractive Presentation

Ask.com = Target & Google = Walmart - Presentation

  • Ask.com and Target: Kitschy & cute. They each position themselves as the hip alternative.
  • Walmart and Google: Spartan & unfeeling- almost cold. Logos and happy faces don’t make up for it.

The new Ask.com has rounded corners, super cute glossy icons and shading. It’s cute. It feels stylish. It gives you that same trendy, fun youthful feeling you get walking through a Target: “Hey, I may not need any of this crap, but dangit I feel better about myself for choosing this one over Blah-Mart.”

Google, on the other hand, with its stark layout, superpowerful algorithm, privacy concerns and half the page devoted to ads, has an image more akin to some soulless Orwellian online big brother. As an afterthought, they’ll put up a shamrock on the logo every St. Patricks day, but otherwise it looks like robots built it. Wal-Mart’s image is extremely beautiful, if you were raised in rural Arkansas and find blue vests and huge smiley faces sophisticated.

Comfortable Surroundings

Ask.com = Target & Google = Walmart - Surroundings

  • Ask.com and Target: Inviting and pleasant to journey through
  • Walmart and Google: Only slightly better atmosphere than a flea market

Ask.com has 3-D search. Does your engine search in THREE DIMENSIONS? Didn’t think so. With Ask’s new layout, you get one column for search suggestions, one for results and one for supplemental results like images and video. It’s like running naked on a spring day through fields of awesome. Taking a similar approach to customer care, Target has always welcomed its guests with wider aisles, clean crisp product displays and simple easy to navigate floor plans.

What’s Google’s approach? Well, now with their new universal search they just toss all your possible searches into a milk crate in front of you and tell you good luck. For ambiance, you get one cold, unfeeling pile of search results from all their categories which are crammed next to a tower of paid results to your right. As for the WM, with cramped aisles and teaming masses constantly barreling through them, Wal-Mart’s atmosphere ranks just below a parking garage. A parking garage at night… with an illegal underground fight club going on.

Cheesy Commercials

Ask.com = Target & Google = Walmart - Commercials

  • Ask.com and Target: Just a tiny step away from the seizure-inducingly horrible Old Navy ads.
  • Google and Wal-Mart: Commercials? What commercials? Oh I guess Wal-Mart has a couple.

Nothing says “rise from your parents’ basements and join the revolution” like 45 seconds of a dude surrounded by singing, dancing hot chicks with swords. In the same way that Target’s commercials do little more than confuse me with their monochrome scenes and that poor poor dog with a bullseye on his face, Ask.com hypnotizes you with bubbling streams of hot, gooey cheese. Forget that it’s undoubtedly alienating the same demographic they’re courting with all the rounded corners and cutesy icons- its hot chicks. With swords. Man, I love cheese.

Near as I can tell Google doesn’t bother with TV commercials and Wal-Mart’s spots are as captivating as the direct-to-video flicks in their $4.99 DVD dumpster. True, they score a few points for having a sword in their spots occasionally, but it’s in the hand of a smiley face dressed like Zorro meets the Hamburgler. Those points are tainted.

So who wins this round? I would say Ask.com’s hand has been well played. A week ago most people didn’t know about them, but by cleaning up the place, making it more comfy and offering up a heaping bowl of “hot chicks with swords” they just might be able to become the Target of web search.

But it begs the question, “Since you want so badly to emulate Target, what’s in store for the future?”

  • Dormroom Accessories Search?
  • Ask.com BabyRegistry?
  • Online Pizza Hut Express?
Max Speed

If the Pole Position Marketing team had a muse—and it does—it would be Max Speed. We love Max’s occasionally off-color, usually amusing and always pointed “Maxisms.” (Maybe “Maxims” would be a better word.) Max gives voice to some of the things we think but, bound by professional decorum, aren’t permitted to say. At least, not out loud.

6 Responses to If Ask.com = Target then Google = Walmart

  1. Anna Green says:

    I know that this is slightly off topic, but I first have a question – Why doesn’t Google have a tv ad? What is their logic there?

    Secondly, I agree with this post in that I have actually been all four of these places (Target, Walmart, Ask.com and Google.com) in the past two days. It does seem that Ask is quietly working on a good user experience while the rest of the world screams about privacy on Google, and functionality and focus on Yahoo and MSN. Google has so many fun qualities about them in terms of a company image – such as their regular April fool’s day jokes – but they don’t seem to implement that in their daily search very well.

    Good post, thank you.

  2. Katy says:

    Okay that was one of the cleverist posts I have ever read. But I think there is a great deal of similarities between the Target and Ask. Wal-Mart is an embarrassment but Target is the cool store, that if you buy some cute clothes there, you are proud. Similarly I tried out Ask.com’s search and was really impressed by their new site. I used the ask jeeves site before Google came along and set the bar for search (much like wal-mart set the bar for unbeatable prices) but now that ask is advertising on tv, I think their chances are good at picking up the part of the population that hasn’t quite decided which search engine to use. I almost feel like I’m cheating the system by using Google, just because it’s so good….

    But to try and answer what Anna has asked, I actually had the same question run through my head. Why do Ask and Yahoo feel the need to run ads, but Google doesn’t. And I think the answer is because everyone already knows about Google. They don’t have to advertise. The fact that they have something like 70% of the market share of search and 99% of their revenue comes from online advertising, I’d say TV doesn’t really have much to do with it. Whether they spend money to create an ad or not, people know Google is there…..they’ve done enough advertising for themselves in the news with all these lawsuits.

  3. John W Ellis says:

    The problem is Ask is trying to hard to compete with Google and Yahoo. That idea needs to go.

    By trying to compete with Google, it becomes obvious to the consumer. That will just remind the consumer that Google is still #1. Ask.com needs to be its own system, unique.

    The commercials may be entertaining, but so what? That does not convert to revenue.

    And the algorithm advertising has got to go. Frankly, dare I say it; we don’t care as much about algorithms are even accurate results. Yes, it’s important but it’s not our top priority.

  4. Pingback: Tafiti - Another New Way To Search » (EMP) E-Marketing Performance

  5. Kellie says:

    I just did the same search in Ask as I did in Google and the results were impressive. I’ll definitely be using Ask in the future. The results were ordered and easy to use with "narrow your results" recommendations. I was a google aficionado. By the way in my Google search the ask.com result was the first one listed (of the free results) and is how I came to know about Ask. I do agree with John that Ask needs to build on it’s on unique capabilities and highlight those.