Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: Lycos

Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: Lycos

Article excerpt

The once-ubiquitous internet search brand's market share is diminishing, its users are spending less time on the site and its rivals are gaining in recognition. Greg Brooks reports.

Ask consumers to name a well-known portal or search brand and chances are they will suggest MSN, Yahoo! or Google. They are less likely to mention Lycos, the internet portal characterised by its trademark black Labrador icon.

This wasn't always the case. Founded in May 1997 as a joint venture between Lycos Inc in the US and Bertelsmann in Germany, Lycos rapidly expanded in Europe through the acquisition of rival portals including Spray in Sweden and MultiMania in France. Following the dotcom boom and bust, Lycos emerged as one of the major players in the UK portal and search market.

But over the past 12 months, Lycos' market share has shrunk and now stands at 0.74% compared with MSN's 18.31%, according to internet research company Hitwise. The users it still has are spending less time on the site; between August 2003 and August 2004 the average duration has dropped from just over five-and-a-half minutes a month to four minutes 52 seconds.

To combat these problems, Lycos has recently increased the storage size of its free and paid-for email in a pre-emptive strike on the email market - a sector which is preoccupied with the impact of Google's soon-to-launch Gmail service.

Despite a focus on paid-for services and shopping, which saw revenues for Lycos Europe rise 2% year on year to 47.6m euros (pounds 32.6m) for the first half of 2004, the portal's reliance on advertising (which provided 43% of the total) means its diminishing market share could prove a serious threat to future revenues.

We asked Amanda Anthony, digital marketing manager at MSN UK, and Chris Baylis, creative communications director at Profero, Ask Jeeves' online agency, for their views on how the Lycos brand can be reinvigorated.

DIAGNOSIS 1 - AMANDA ANTHONY Digital marketing manager, MSN UK

With its name, logo and strong launch campaign, Lycos has great brand attributes which communicate its core search element effectively. Despite this, Lycos' marketing has focused on various brand extensions recently, perhaps at the expense of its overall brand.

Lycos' Viral Chart, which rates the best viral emails and attachments each week, has undoubtedly been a success. However, it does not communicate what the rest of the site does, and the danger is that the chart could potentially eclipse Lycos' other brand elements, such as search and instant-messaging, in the minds of consumers. …

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