Google’s move to promote a unified brand was guided by audience data – as well as necessity. But rejuvenated central messaging – that it’s a company of helpfulness – is designed to drive product usage as well as brand love.
Marvin Chow’s talk at Advertising Week New York was entitled ‘How does Google market Google?’. ‘Why does Google market Google?’ could easily have been an alternative.
After all, Google was the original tech brand to turn into a verb – a catch-all term for internet searches – and has touched the lives of millennials, Gen Z and all that will come afterwards since it was founded. What’s the point spending cash on brand marketing when your brand is estimated to be worth USD$155.5bn?
At one stage, Google’s bosses wondered the same thing. Its ‘marketing’ team first came together at a press conference in 1999 when the company’s original goal – to organise the world’s information – was defined as a mission statement and sold to the world.
It wasn’t until 2010 that the company assembled the multitude of software products it had launched in the previous decade into a flagship brand campaign called ‘Parisian Love’.
That was the year Chow joined Google. Nearly 10 years later, he’s working on bringing the company’s product brands back together again under “one unified umbrella” – a ‘Parisian Girl’ part II for the era of apps, hardware, AR and mobile.
Aside from a need to promote Google’s expanded product offering, such a campaign had become even more necessary as attitudes to technology rapidly changed towards the close of the 2010s.
Privacy concerns and a slate of brand safety issues have made consumers more suspicious of tech brands’ motives, while, Chow argues, the products themselves have gone from “feeling really magical to really being just a regular part of everyday life”.
This sentiment has led Google to reassess its overarching marketing approach.
“How people relate to technology companies is evolving and changing,” said Chow. “As a marketer, brand means so much more to so many technology companies now than maybe it did even like 10 years ago.
“We have a very strong brand, but it’s important that we tell that brand story and almost remind people about the Google that they love.”
Additionally, research carried out by Chow’s team has shown that product usage and engagement increases when Google spotlights its holistic brand, rather than concentrating on product-specific marketing.
Tests carried out on banner ads showed “a significant increase in click-through” when Google Photos was marketed as ‘Photos by Google’, and when Google Maps was called ‘Maps by Google’, for instance.
“It just reinforced this idea that people see us as one company with multiple products, rather than a group of apps with [their own brands],” he explained.
To devise a new brand message that would set it up for the next decade and beyond, Google put two teams on the job – Chow’s product marketers and its internal Brand Studio. After months of research they both arrived at the same conclusion, which became the new core message: Google helps people.
“When we tell people that, they get it – it resonates with them,” he said. “But it also has that humbleness of Google: the idea that it’s not about us and it’s not about how fancy technology is. It’s more – is it useful for you? And if it is, then we’re happy.”
Pilot work went live in Germany in Q4 of 2018. The final campaign, which was created with the help of BBH LA, hit the US in the spring.
“Unlike other brand campaigns, our objective was truly multifold,” Chow said at his Advertising Week presentation. “We aspire to drive [brand love] … but also drive incremental usage of our products as well as contribute positively to the ROI of the company.
“A big part of that plan was diversifying our creative approach and media flight.”
Google’s approach was to invest in an overarching “anthem” – a flagship film soundtracked by The Beatles’ ‘Help’ – as well as roughly 200 clips promoting particular products.
The 60-second film was shown for mass reach on TV, while the brand is using its own YouTube targeting to distribute the shorts to the “right audiences based on their relationship with Google and our products”.
Chow said early measurement of the campaign has shown “positive signals of success” of both brand perception and product usage.
“This has been our most recent effort, but our approach since Parisian Love has been something we’ve been refining over years and years to get an understanding of what is marketing at Google,” he said, noting the mechanisms of Google’s marketing department still “remain this bit of unknown” among the marketing community.
“We look at things like focusing on the user not the brand, we look at the role that product plays in being helpful to a person and we look at balancing art with science and impact.”