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Ask brings back butler Jeeves

The search engine, Ask, is reverting to its original name, Ask Jeeves amid plans to reintroduce the butler to its branding.

In 2006 Ask Jeeves dropped the butler as the company began a series of facelifts aimed at increasing market share and gaining on Google.

The return of Jeeves, says the company, is due to demand. There was a brief campaign back in 2006 from users who wished to have him reinstated.

Peter Matthews, manager of the brand and digital consultancy Nucleus, said Ask needed to put some clear blue water between itself and Google.

"Ask is struggling, as all search engines other than Google are," he said.

"With Google, you get 90% of the market, so the other search engines - Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Ask to name but a few - are all trying to grab a share of the remaining 10%."

The search engine has been through a series of rebrands, including a TV advertising campaign portraying it as an underground alternative to Google.

In the autumn of 2008 it had another makeover, this time branding itself as the search engine that could best answer specific questions.

Mr Matthews added: "Ask Jeeves was quite a strong brand, in the sense it had brand values that were different from everyone else.

"Ask without Jeeves lacked character and while the actual product - searching the web - is very effective, in trying to be more like Google they shot themselves in the foot.

"The opportunity for Jeeves would be to get the site to be used as it was first intended - not by putting in a few key words, but by asking it a proper question.

"Not only have they got a brand issue, but they need to be famous for answering questions rather than producing reams of search results."

Managing director of Ask, Cesar Mascaraque denied the rethink was a last-ditch effort to gain ground on market leader Google.

"We have seen a growth of 20% this year, so we are not struggling," he said.

"We have been focused on developing an outstanding producer that will deliver outstanding results and Jeeves is just the icing on the cake.

"Our aim is to give our users the answers they need for the lives they lead and Jeeves's role is to give our users answers in a more human way."

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