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1.07.2006 

Marketing doesn't matter

That seems to be the predominant sentiment around the Googleplex. Insiders proudly point out they turned Google into a household name and an $8.5 billion dollar brand with hardly a dime spent on marketing. So who needs marketing? It’s an evil; we don’t do evil.

Maybe that sentiment played a role in the Larry Page’s CES keynote speech, which unfortunately seemed to leave fans and the press underwhelmed.

With his white lab coat and loose sheaf of notes, Page may have felt like a breath of fresh air in a Las Vegas landscape where hype runs amok. It left me thinking, though, that Google may be getting dangerously near the point of hubris. Because no matter how much contempt you may have for marketing, you can’t cavalierly frustrate users’ expectations too many times without risking some serious damage. Marketing isn’t about duping people. It’s about creating awareness and desire, and then meeting the expectations you’ve set.

Whether it's arrogance or naiveté, Google’s approach to just about everything seems to be “build it and they will come.” You do that once or twice successfully, then start thinking you can do it whenever you want. But not even Google can get away with just half-building something cool like a video store, announcing it, and then basically punking its audience.

You have to wonder--and certainly Googlers will have the data--on how many potential customers hunted around for the Google Video Store and didn't find it. (Google Video is buried under "Labs" half-way down the "More" page.) Or, if they did manage to find it, what their impressions were when they discovered homegrown clips like "Tom Cruise Kills Oprah" and "Fire Fart" instead of CSI, Survivor, NBA, Sony music videos, and the other premium content touted in the press release. CNET's Google Blog drives home the point nicely. Even the Google Video "about page" is amazingly bereft of content; just click on any of TV channels under "Search for programs" and most likely you'll come up with zilch.

With the press primed, Google Video Store got plenty of awareness. But the company threw away the opportunity to create big time desire, (not to mention traffic and revenue), by drawing attention to a half-baked product. Not a smart thing to do, even—or especially—if you’re flush with mega brand strength. Too much is at stake. Google should take off its “do no evil” glasses for a little while and took a look at the Steve Jobs marketing playbook on how to deliver desire.
-GG

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