About Soul. About.com

About.com ran an ad in The New York Times (its parent company) today in honor of its 15th anniversary.  The ad also celebrates About’s 36 million monthly U.S. visitors.

Not sure if they are launching a new tagline, but locked up with the logo at the bottom of the ad are the words “Need. Know. Accomplish.” They visited the triumvirate tagline store, apparently.

Apparently, 15 years – which is nothing to sneeze at – is an About differentiator.  I say that because “need know accomplish” is the Bing strategy. And we know that Google owns the “need know accomplish” space.

I want About to win because I love The New York Times. About needs some of that NYT sophistication and savvy to rub off on it. It needs to be more human, less algo, more alive. And, frankly, it’s built an okay site reflecting that. The user experience faces the right direction. Problem is, the brand is weak. The promise blah. The there is there, but the message is without ballast. The New York Times has never really had to brand plan for the paper-paper or the digital version. It has just needed to promote and sell, because brand “the package” has always been so strong.  About.com, on the other hand, needs a home in consumers’ minds. Right now it’s a word. A site. It’s has a pumping heart.  Let’s hope in 5 years it has a soul too. I wish it well. Peace.

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