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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?