How Google is Taking Over the World

By BKV in Analytics & Information on August 11th, 2011

Google...

recently hosted the annual ThinkRetail event in Mountain View and, for the first time, did a live stream from their local offices so that we could all fully take advantage of their unlimited Annie’s fruit snacks and La Croix (I swear).  The premise of the event was emerging trends for the retail sector (and technology as a whole), and how Google is leveraging these trends in their new and existing product offerings.  There was a wealth of information that I took away that can be directly applied to my client (AT&T), but the idea that resonated most with me was about how freaking awesome Google is.  Now I know that this is most definitely Google’s underlying goal for hosting the event, and I know that I’m [definitely] in the minority on this one, but I am seriously and unapologetically enamored with this company.  Just hear me out…

To most people, hearing the word “Google” brings about thoughts of loss of privacy, Big Brother, world domination.  And it’s probably true (especially that last bit).  But the problem is that mainstream America seems to equate privacy with freedom, an “eye in the sky” with communism.  

As marketers, we know that knowledge is power.  The more information we have about you, the more we can give you what you are looking for.  Trust me, I hate those lame luxury sedan commercials interrupting my “So You Think You Can Dance” episodes just as much as you do.  No, I will never consider a Hyundai!  I don’t care how much it looks like a Mercedes!  So why fight the notion that the lack of personalization of mass media has turned most people off of advertising?  Who doesn’t throw away ten pieces of irrelevant junk mail every day?  Who doesn’t delete spam from clogging their inboxes every morning?  What most people don’t think about is the costs that go into those mass media buys, direct mail pieces (and postage!), and e-mails.  Google is simply doing it smarter; the only way to do it smarter is to tailor what you see to what you’re interested in.  What that means is far more data to comb through for marketers, but a chance for you, the consumer, to actually find value in what you see.  And by reinvesting the money saved into new and innovative products, Google is leaps and bounds ahead of the marketplace.

Ok, now that we’ve established how Google is living up to their informal motto,

let me tell you about the new products discussed on Tuesday (aka, how Google is amazing).  I’ll keep it short and sweet:

1. Google+

I can swear that I came up with a dumbed-down version of this idea years ago when I thought that Facebook should have different profiles that you can customize for your social friends, work friends, family, etc.  Granted Google+ takes this to a whole new level, but the concept is easy to understand and sell.  The fact that your Circles aren’t a two-way street is genius.  For example, while you may consider Mandy to be one of your “Chicas for lyfe”, 

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she doesn’t need to know or approve this status (thus avoiding potential embarrassment). This is especially useful for when your boyfriend’s mom feels the need to follow you on social networks and doesn’t really need to know about how you, well, did anything but sit around baking pies all day.

If you’re not on Google+ yet, you’re behind.  Last I saw, it had 10 million members and growing after only 2 weeks or so in market.

2. Google Wallet (launching later this summer)

This is one of my favorite Google products ideas.  It’s basically a consolidation of 

this:                                                                                                         into this: 

                                        

 

No more need to carry around your Ulta card, 3 credit cards, Starwood Preferred Guest card, and 25% off Banana Republic coupon.  It takes all of your purchase information, provides offers relevant to your shopping behavior, and stores it all neatly on your phone.  Not only is this convenient for those bags that for some reason aren’t meant to hold more than a phone and your keys, but it also provides marketers a way to target based on specific purchase behavior and more importantly, track the success of their campaigns based on redemption information.  (Plus - I hear that some hotels are working on apps that use tones to open hotel room doors, so eventually you may not need your keys after all!)

The cool thing about the offers component is that it can be integrated into your existing SEM campaigns, providing another way to analyze effectiveness.

3. Google Circulars (launch date TBD)

Let’s all take a minute to mourn the death of print.  As a former print media planner/buyer, I can understand how this is a tough pill to swallow.  Ok, let’s not say the death of print (since print will always have a place), let’s just say the “changing landscape” of print.  Gone are the days of bulging newspaper budgets, so Google Circulars takes the idea of traditional circs and adds that certain Google je ne sais quoi.  Integrated within the circulars are product videos, customizable interfaces based on search behavior (if you have searched for refrigerator reviews, a Home Depot circ may prominently feature the newest LG fridges), and other ways that prove that the movement away from print is about maximizing value for consumers, not just lower cost (although the two are irrevocably intertwined).  Google Circulars monetizes this concept by selling these as units within Google Search by utilizing product feeds. So not only can they adapt to inventory levels in real time, but you don’t have to guess several weeks in advance what the newest and most in-demand products are going to be, the way traditional circs necessitate.  I think the name circulars is a bit old-fashioned since this product is really just streamlining product feeds (which Google already has), but the brilliant part of it is that it provides an easy way to spend those massive print budgets by investing in a hybrid print product.

4. YouTube Channels (launching in January)

This one I’m still wrapping my head around.  YouTube is trying to move off of a strictly UGC model to a TV/Netflix killer by creating channels catering to niches that can’t be served easily by mass media.

  

Existing networks with so-called premium content (Food Network, HGTV) will make up the minority of content, while high-quality UGC like make-up application instructional videos (apparently a huge market) will comprise the body, and a plethora of surprised-kitty-type videos making up the majority.  The idea is basically breaking down the barriers between traditional TV programming and crap we sit around watching for hours in the middle of the night in a way that can serve everybody.  The example that the presenter gave was that he’s obsessed with skiing, but because there isn’t a dedicated skiing channel on TV, there isn’t an easy way to find skiing-related content.  A skiing channel would allow him to upload his own videos of him skiing the Alps, while connecting with people with similar interests who may have relevant content to share as well.  Media companies such as ESPN or Fox Sports may have some professionally edited stuff to share like coverage from the X Games, and advertisers benefit from having an extremely engaged, relevant audience.  Because this is such a huge restructuring of YouTube’s current business model and UI, I’m so interested to see if this is the next big success like Android, or if it will die without a peep like Google Wave (you will be mourned)

5. Mysterious location-based offer product

I’m leaving you all with this one, partly because of the way it was hyped at the ThinkRetail event, but also because I think that if Google scared you before, this may send you over the edge. A new product (name yet to be announced) is coming soon that targets users based on location proximity to your brick & mortar store location, competitors, or related location. Think weight-loss pills if you’re right outside of a Jenny Craig.

It also allows for differential bidding prices on keywords based on location, knowing that a person searching for ice cream down the block from Baskin-Robbins is worth more to BR than someone at home 10 miles away from the nearest store.  We all know that this is the way location-based advertising is moving; now it’s just up to us as marketers to be nimble enough to use this information in more creative ways than our competitors.

If you were worried that Google knows everything about you before, my advice is to brace yourself for what’s to come.  But if you’re willing to reconsider your preconceptions about marketing, you’ll see that Google envisions a world where you shouldn’t have to fast-forward through commercials, throw away more mail than you read, or ignore the right-hand rail for most search queries.  I, for one, can’t wait to see that world, Big Brother or not. 

So why the love affair?  Because frankly, it forces us to think harder, respond quicker, be smarter.  Gone are the days when we could make a media buy and hope (and convince our clients) that it was a smart one. Now we can prove it.  And I don’t mean with just clicks or visits (metrics that are the bain of Avinash’s existence)… I mean with media mix attribution models, in-depth engagement analysis, and enough Analytics metrics that could make your head spin.  The most important contribution Google has made to the world is the way it has forever altered the way we think. 

Sure, it means that to be a competitive player in the new world Google is helping create, we as marketers need to constantly be studying up on trends, learning new technology both in and outside the office, and becoming fluent with the analytical and statistical analysis that was once reserved for math geeks and accounting nerds. But that’s what makes this such an exciting and transformative field.  Google, to me, represents that professor that you just love to hate, the one that asks you those probing questions, forces you to stop starting those papers the night before they’re due, doesn’t let you just coast… So here’s to you, Google. Thanks for always giving me that kick in the @$$ I may not always want, but know that I, along with the rest of the world, really and truly need.