The JKR blog is well worth a look, as it has lots of really good mini case studies on design. One that caught my eye was one about the online search engine, Ask.com. Another interesting example of the care you need to take with visual equities, hot on my earlier post about the Tropicana re-design disaster.
Ask.com launched back in 1996 as askjeeves.com. They cleverly used as a brand character a butler called Jeeves, inspired by the works of British author P.G.Wodehouse. This was clever, as it helped the site stand out from the crowd, and was a lovely visual metaphor for a site that was "at your service", to go and get you stuff; in this case information.
Chucking out the butler with the bathwater
However, following a company buyout in 2005 the character was axed. The rationale was to shorten the domain name to ask.com to make it easier for people to type. Fair enough. But what a waste of brand equity to chuck out the butler character
Remember what made you famous
4 years later and the butler is back. According to the JKR blog, ‘Ask Jeeves’ still has a brand awareness of 83%, compared to Ask.com’s 72%. Took them 4 years of brand amnesia to remember what made them famous. But they got there in the end.
Polish your equities, don't change 'em
Shame the new Jeeves is not quite right though, as the JKR blog explains: "The visual re-tooling of the character fails to capture the spirit of the idea in the same way as his predecessor. With his new grey suit and 3D rendering, Jeeves now appears far more like a banker than a butler. So the mascot has been brought back, but the character has been lost." And, here is the best bit: "One would have imagined that Ask might have had a bit more respect for the original’s value."
Love that. Respect the value of your visual equities, and polish them with care, rather than changing them for the sake of novelty.