Algorithm Does it all?

People don’t buy drills, they buy holes.  This is the key premise of a well known (or maybe not so well known) article written 47 years ago by Ted Levitt, entitled Marketing Myopia.

If only IAC’s Barry Diller and Jim Lanzone, CEO of had read it. has just introduced a new ad campaign for it’s search engine that is designed to raise consumer awareness for its key differentiating factor, its algorithm…and thats what most of the dialog on the commercial is about.  In one commercial their young son asks his dad…"do you have a lame algorithm?…your mom and I get everything we want with the most powerful algorithm on the earth"   Is that where their son came from too (a new take on the "birds and the bees" discussion!)?

Whatever happened to I found it on Ask? Consumers are looking for a benefit, not a feature.  Sure everyone likes features but the only features that users are interested in are the ones that offer them a benefit. 

Unsubstantiated claims are also a waste of time in today’s world.  Nobody believes them without 3rd party validation coupled with positive consumer experiences. Ask says that they have "the most powerful algorithm on the earth".  Says who?

Bottom line is as long as Ask continues to promote features and not benefits its destined to be a distant number 3.  When it begins define its market (it can’t be everything to everyone) and then to focus on what those users want and what is not currently being provided, it will have a chance at growth. 

The only hope for Ask, given its current marketing efforts, is that Microsoft’s Live Search strategy is far worse as they appear to have none.