Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Alan Charlesworth, University of Sunderland

Alan Charlesworth
University of Sunderland

Which of my lessons below resonates with you the most and why?

Keep it simple, stupid

What makes Google such a unique company? Why has it been so successful?

It had the right product, in the right place at the right time. Would it have succeeded if it were launched in 1997 or 2007? No … well possibly, but it would have taken a lot more marketing. Never again will a brand be so successful in its launch with such an un-structured viral marketing campaign. (Was it even a campaign or did it just happen?) Its ethos/culture helped with the original target market but, once it went mainstream, “do no evil” meant little. Although it will feature as a case study in many marketing text books, you will not find a “traditional” marketing concept/theory that you can point to and say, “That’s what Google did”. Indeed, it is useful as a case study on why marketing is an art not a science, but it is useless as a guide to launching a new company –- it would never work again. Again, right place, right time.

How has Google, and the Internet in general, changed the dynamics of competition?

Not sure I know this one. When I was “selling” the Internet back in the day I “preached” that it was going to change everything. The dynamics changed when some firms used the Internet and others didn’t. Following from that, you could say those which use Google effectively have a competitive advantage. Now [that] the dust has settled, has the Internet changed the dynamics? No, I don’t thing so. [It has] changed the way in which competition presents itself perhaps, but ultimately, competition is competition. Full stop. (OK, period – I’m British!)

What do you think of brands that use sex to sell their products? How can this be an effective technique? Have you seen examples where this approach has backfired?

Hmm, advertising not really my field of expertise/research. Perhaps in the UK we see less of this – and where there are examples it is often done with tongue firmly in cheek’. Might depend on your definition of sex? Ever see less-than-good-looking-with–fab-figure “ordinary’” women in ads? Could it be advertisers are just conditioned to use sex without actually analyzing the reason or potential returns?

What do you think of Google’s Search Stories campaign?

As a consumer [it was] interesting to watch. As a marketing lecturer [I wondered,] what is/are the objective(s) of the campaign? [It] could be branding [but does] Google needs brand-building promotions? How to live your life via Google? Don’t some already do this and, if I don’t, I might consider the ad-character to be sad and not want to associate with them? [The other possible objective could be] instructional – how to use the search engine [but] no, [the ad was] too fast to follow.

What’s the single most important thing you’ve learned from Google?

With the right product in the right place at the right time – starting with a niche market and building from that foundation can work

Other thoughts?

I hate to say it, but one problem I have with the premise of the book is that I was a marketer and had marketing qualifications before the Internet existed. I start my modules by telling students the Internet has brought nothing new to marketing – only faster/cheaper/more efficient ways of doing old things (want to take up that challenge and name something?).

I think Internet marketing is marketing. On the Internet. I think the best online marketers are marketers first, e–marketers second. Therefore, I get frustrated with Jonny–come–lately types (often from a technical background) who read “Search” and think they are experts in strategic marketing. Worse still, they think they invented marketing. I recall one software engineer ringing me up to tout Amazon’s (then) new feature: “people who bought this also bought this” as “something new to marketing”‘. I had to point him at up/cross selling that probably said “if you’re buying this dinosaur leg, you might want to buy some fire too.”

Ergo, I’m not sure Google has taught the marketing world anything, only confirmed old things. So there you go, rant over.

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