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cuil – aka – how NOT to launch a search engine

July 30, 2008

We say it all the time… but this week is a great opportunity to remind ourselves that good public relations begins at home… with a good product/service/company. You can have the best PR team in the world, but at the end of the day, if what you offer doesn’t make the cut, you’ll suffer the consequences.

And what prompted this reflection? The well hyped and touted launch of new search engine cuil (pronounced ‘cool’, ugh) this week, of course! What’s sad is that it started out so well… coverage in the NYTimes, AP, all the major search blogs, TechCrunch, you know… all the big press you could hope for. Great job, break out the champagne and congrats to AOR MS&L!!

Then the fun started. Cuil, turns out, is not so cool after all. Webware’s Rafe Needleman says “Cuil shows us how NOT to launch a search engine”, ReadWriteWeb wants to know how such a sub-par engine got so much attention, and TechCrunch points out that every journalist and blogger under the sun got a pre-briefing, but no one got a test-run, so the hype very quickly died when users began realizing the engine was nothing special. Rants raged on blogs and news sites all over the web, and now? Bad press and bad puns abound, leaving most people wondering how all the problems and glitches made it past the engineers and marketing folks. Didn’t anyone test this product before it went live??

Moral. And I say this with very recent experience launching a search engine,, that got it’s own fair share of press, all positive and exciting, I might add. Good products make good launches. And quality will always trump quantity when it comes to your coverage. In an age where one negative comment can snowball within seconds to hundreds of blog posts all over the internet, making sure your product is ready for prime time is essential for success, no matter how good your communications team is. Best of luck to the cuil team, but this was not a good start.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 19, 2008 12:28 am

    Few things disappoint people more than a product that doesn’t live up to its marketing. This often stems from a major disconnect between engineering & marketing, such as when marketing comes up with a terrific idea that the engineers have to fulfill (the Microsoft approach), as opposed to the other way around.

    People often fault Google for keeping many of their applications “in Beta” for so long, though most of their Beta products have far fewer bugs than their competitors have in v1.0. In this case, the launch of Cuil seemed more like an early Alpha than the “Google killer” it was hyped up to be. Because of how poorly handled the launch was here, even if the underlying technology is phenomenal and just needs some of the kinks worked out, this company has lost all credibility and will be hard pressed to ever lose the stigma of a stinky launch.

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