Ask for More

So here’s the deal: You have $140 million dollars to spend and all you have to do is generate trial and repeat usage of your website. 140 million smackeroos. Salivating yet? That’s a lot of dough from where I sit. If you spent it on TV, you could pretty much blanket every man, women and child many times over with your message. Of course, spending it all on TV would be pretty silly in these DVR days, so I simply provide that as an illustration of how much money you have to work with.

One hundred and forty million dollars! That’s exactly how much Barry Diller’s Interactive Corp spent over the last two years to get folks like you and me to visit and use Ask.com (according to today’s Wall St. Journal). Amazingly, we didn’t come. Nope. We just kept using Google. In fact, despite outspending Google three to one, Google’s usage actually grew over the last two years.

So, here are my questions:

* Why do you think Ask.com failed so miserably?
* What would you do if you had $140 million to work with?

While you are pondering these questions, let me offer a couple of anecdotes. My assistant suggested that nobody uses Ask because “it sucks” and “doesn’t even load properly.” Indeed, it could be a product problem although many industry insiders praised Ask’s redesign and the quality of the searches it delivers. Our Digital Development Director, Lydia, isn’t so sure it is a product problem and actually has nice things to say about its performance. So if it isn’t a product problem then it must be a marketing problem.

One quick observation is that the hardest thing in marketing to do is to change behavior. Using Google is simply effortless. It is on top window in most people’s browser and therefore front and center every time you consider a search. I simply don’t think about going to another search engine because Google is right there. Unless you paid me or could prove to me that I wasn’t getting what I needed on Google, I’m simply too lazy to switch.

With that small barrier to overcome, I once again ask what would you do with $140 million dollars to drive traffic to Ask.com? I’ll be back later with some thoughts of my own.

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