Jeeves Gets Wardrobe Changes

Search engine service Ask Jeeves Inc. is debuting a “Sharply Dressed Jeeves” marketing campaign to strengthen online user loyalty with its famed butler mascot.

The program begins Aug. 16 on with an Elvis Jeeves character to mark the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley's passing. The starchy butler character created by British humorist P.G. Wodehouse will be dressed that day in Elvis' famous white jumpsuit, big belt buckle, sunglasses and cape.

To drive home the point, the typical “What can I help you find today?” question is being replaced by “Whole Lotta Searchin' Goin' On!” For that day, Elvis Jeeves will guide users in search of answers on the Internet.

Also, clicking on the Elvis Jeeves character takes site users to an Elvis results page with more information on the singer. They also can hear an Elvis expression in audio in the singer's Southern drawl –“Thank you, thank you very much.”

“Our strategy is to extend our relationship with our users through the Jeeves character and to build our brand through a more interactive use of Jeeves on the site,” said Heather Staples, chief marketing officer at Ask Jeeves, Emeryville, CA.

Ask Jeeves will doll up its mascot in a different persona once or twice a month. An appropriate plan for Sept. 11 is still being worked out. But October will see Jeeves wearing a pink ribbon on his lapel for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“People have come to expect relevant results from Jeeves, and we want to make the overall experience on the site very relevant to users on a day-to-day basis,” Staples said. “And part of that is making Sharply Dressed Jeeves happening when it's relevant.”

As a complement to Sharply Dressed Jeeves, the service also will debut “Just Curious Jeeves.” This is a three-panel comic strip about the butler's exploits in his younger days. Another feature, “Behind the Butler,” will showcase people who work on the character and the overall search site.

Ask Jeeves claims to be the second-largest pure search engine on the Web after rival Google. It records about 5 million searches a day on its site.

Staples said the site receives about 500,000 questions monthly on Jeeves himself. Inquirers ask questions like “Will he marry me?” and “Where is Jeeves from?” Herein lay an opportunity with Ask Jeeves to start another dialogue with users.

So, the service ran a weeklong beta test in the recent 2002 FIFA World Cup played in South Korea and Japan. Jeeves was shown outfitted on as a soccer player doing a bicycle kick while the games were in the semifinal and final rounds.

“The number of people clicking on the Jeeves character went up from 10 a day to 5,000 a day for that week,” Staples said.

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