Super Bowl Ad shows Google’s move from Tech to Consumer Marketer

Back in 2006, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt infamously said that brand advertising was “The last bastion of unaccountable spending in corporate America.”

Yet during the 2010 Super Bowl, Google did what many would have called unthinkable just a few years ago… they ran a piece of brand advertising on the largest advertising stage in the world.

Supporting their Search Stories campaign, Google ran their “Parisian Love” television ad during the 3rd Quarter of the Saints / Colts Super Bowl.  Of course Internet companies have a long history of running ads during the Super Bowl.  And usually those attempts fail miserable (think Pets.com or E*Trade’s Monkey ad).

But Google’s latest effort is different than many of those failed Internet to Super Bowl Ads.  As my P&G colleague Stan Joosten wrote:

Google ad stands out – story based on emotions from a company centered around analytics. Sign of maturity.

Or take the point of Rishad Tobaccowala (from Denuo Group):

GOOG ad smart because it’s usage not awareness that matters. Most folks dont realize all one can do. Not even us “experts”

So why exactly is the Google effort a sign of maturity and not just another example of “unaccountable spending?”  From my viewpoint, the answer is in Google’s transformation from Tech Company to Consumer Marketer.

Ten years ago, Google was started as a pure tech company.  Their mission was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” while their name was a play on the word googol (the mathematical term for a 1 followed by 100 zeros).

But today, Google is much more than a search company based on a great technology.  They are starting to truly become a Consumer Marketer, competing for the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers against fierce competitors like Apple, Nokia and Microsoft.

You see, the smartphone battle of the Nexus One vs the iPhone isn’t about technology.  Neither is the search war between Google and Microsoft Bing.

In these competitions, Google is entering the world of traditional Brand / Consumer Marketing.  Think Coke vs Pepsi… Bud Light vs Miller Light… or Old Spice vs Axe.  These classic brand battles generally aren’t fought (or won) on technology or performance alone.  They are fought with emotion, words, and stories.  This fact isn’t lost on Google and they proved it with “Parisian Love.”

So let me be the first to welcome Google to the world of Consumer Marketing.  I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with next.

See the full ad embedded below:

Brand Managers Need to Practice Consumer Collaboration

Several weeks ago, I had the honor to write a guest post for the Google CPG Blog.  If you aren’t familiar with this blog, it is a highly recommended read for anyone on the brand or agency side working in CPG.  Below is a repost of my thoughts on Brands and Consumer Collaboration.

Brand Managers have historically been reliant on Consumer Research such as focus groups and surveys to be “in-touch” with consumers. But in this day of 24/7 access to consumer opinions from blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, Brand Managers need a new approach for understanding why people buy their brands. One of the most powerful ways to do so is through Consumer Collaboration. In its most simplistic form, Consumer Collaboration is about monitoring and participating in the conversations around our brands, listening to changing opinions in real-time. It is about tapping into what Google calls the “Database of Consumer Intentions” to gain a new sense of what our consumers are thinking each and every day. In fact, Google is a company making it easy for marketers to be in touch with the “database of intentions” every day through tools like Wonder Wheel, Insights for Search, Blog Search, and YouTube Insights for Video.

But true Consumer Collaboration is about going beyond that, giving marketers a chance to tap into the passion of consumers and collaborate with brand advocates. The world of digital gives CPG Marketers the chance to harness the energy of consumers to build remarkable brands.

In that regard, the need for moving towards a mindset of Consumer Collaboration is driven by three facts:

  1. Consumers are sharing their opinions about the brand, with, or without, a Brand Manager’s blessing.
  2. Consumers will be heard whether or not companies give them an outlet.
  3. The amount of information about our brands (and access to that information) has never been greater.

Today’s Brand Managers must recognize a new approach to move beyond research and instead focus on collaborating with our consumers and your most passionate fans. This means we should invite consumers to collaborate with us to improve our brand. Scott Cook, founder of Intuit and Board Member of P&G, eBay and Amazon calls these “User Contribution Systems.” As Cook pointed out in the Harvard Business Review:

“Every day, millions of people make all kinds of voluntary contributions to companies — from informed opinions to computing resources — that create tremendous value for this firm’s customers and, consequently, for their shareholders.”

This fact has not been lost on CPG Brand Marketers. Whether it is Tide using the services of Get Satisfaction, or Hugo Boss Fragrance tapping into consumer creativity with HugoCreate.com, brands are starting to see the true value of Consumer Collaboration.

However, one of the best examples actually comes from a non-CPG company: Starbucks with their program, MyStarbucksIdea.com. Launched in March 2008, the site arrived one year after Howard Schultz famously wrote an internal memo that said “[we] desperately need to look into the mirror and realize it’s time to get back to the core and make the changes necessary to evoke the heritage, the tradition, and the passion that we all have for the true Starbucks experience.” MyStarbucksIdea was a way to regain that heritage and passion by inviting Starbucks loyalists to collaborative on reinvigorating the brand. As Starbucks describes the site:

What would make your Starbucks experience perfect? We know you’ve got ideas – big ideas, little ideas, maybe even totally revolutionary ideas – and we want to hear them all. That’s why we created My Starbucks Idea. So you can share the ideas that matter to you and you can find out how we’re putting those ideas to work. Together, we will shape the future of Starbucks.

When the site first launched, the critics classified it as nothing more than a “glorified comment card.” But over the past year, Starbucks has shown that they are truly committed to making the site much more than that. In the spirit of Consumer Collaboration, Starbucks enrolls people throughout the lifetime of an idea. At the heart of the process is a team of Idea Partners – Starbucks employees who are experts in their respective field. These Idea partners read all ideas and comments on the site, but also guide ideas through the Starbucks organization. And just as important, they keep consumers up to date via the Ideas in action blog where Starbucks writes about the ideas that are recommended for implementation and details where they are in the process (Under Review, Reviewed, Coming Soon or Launched).

This is consumer collaboration at its finest. Starbucks isn’t inviting consumers to a two hour focus group where they give ideas and never talk to the company again. Instead they are inviting people to give their opinions and providing an outlet to do so. The result is that consumers are acting like part-owners of the company because their ideas are being heard. More brands need to follow the lead of Starbucks in this area, leveraging the power of digital to practice true Consumer Collaboration.

Great Resource for Brand Managers: Google Launches Internet Stat Center

This one slipped under my radar as Google recently launched an Internet Stat Center.  The collection of statistics is broken down into five main areas of focus: Technology, Macro Economic Trends, Media Landscape, Media Consumption, and Consumer Trends.  Within each topic are subcategories focusing on an aspect of that subject area. For instance, within Consumer Trends, you can drill down into Community, Entertainment, Information and eCommerce.

This simple site is an amazing resource for Brand Managers and Marketers.  After all, how many times have you needed to pull together a presentation for management and wanted a fact to support your point?  Thanks to the Google Internet Stat Center, the latest and greatest figures are now just a click away.

Google - Internet Stats

For some odd reason, the site is used under a UK domain address so many of the facts have an European bent.  But regardless, it is still a highly valuable tool for marketers and one I hope Google expands even further.

Brand Managers and Consumers Rarely See Eye to Eye

Seth Godin says that the “new” best way to make an internal sale is to make a video of people on the street talking about your product.  Now while I could poke plenty of holes in the fact that this is not a “new” tactic by any means, I do agree with the basic premise of what Seth is saying.

As a marketer and Brand Manager, you can easily get sucked into an echo chamber.  And from what I have seen, the problem gets amplified in Silicon Valley.  You just assume everyone knows what 3G means or that they guy on the street really cares about your new longer lasting scent (for us CPG marketers).

At P&G, one of the basic principles of the company is that “The Consumer is Boss.”  And building off that, I believe every marketer should keep in mind that they themselves are not the consumer…not even close.  A consumer does not live and breath your product every day.  And while your salary depends on that brand or product, to the consumer it is just another item in their shopping basket.

Sometimes we Brand Managers need to be reminded of that fact.  And Seth is dead-on that video of people on the street is a good way to do it.  For sure it is more effective than a focus group.

Case in point, I bet the Google Chrome Product Team was shocked when they saw this video from NYC.  Watch it for yourself and you’ll see that most people don’t even know what a browser is, much less care about a new one named after a metal.

You can’t help but marvel at the power of Social Media

I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone that helped P&G last night with our Loads of Hope program.  In just over 4 hours, we raised $50,000 for charity… a sum that was then matched by the Tide brand.  It’s amazing that through the power of Social Media and the support of some wicked smart people, you could raise $100,000 to help a great cause.  You can’t help but feel good about that.

If you want to get a feel for the event, you can check out the Twitter Stream (where Tide was a top 10 term last night) or read the great insights by some of the people that participated last night.

Thank you again to everyone for your support.  We helped a great cause and helped to teach ourselves about the power of digital and social media.

And I promise no more mentions of “buy this t-shirt” on this blog or Twitter.

* NOTE: Despite the plugs for Loads of Hope last night and today, this blog remains my personal blog and anything stated here is not the opinion of my employer.

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