Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Keith Kaplan, Adconion

Keith Kaplan
North American President
Adconion Media Group

What does the brand Google mean to you?

It’s a trust factor. Google is the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. [The perception of the brand is that] they’re not doing it to make money. They’re acting as an independent resource.

Our children are growing up with this. They don’t believe they’ll be misdirected or misguided [by Google]. That’s a tough thing to carry as a business. [However,] Google has always treated quality before quantity.

At the end of the day, why [would anyone] go to someone and ask [for information]? Just go to Google and get all the information and guide my education. As a father, I’ve been replaced by Google. My daughter was doing 5th grade math and asked me (her 42 year old father) the difference between radius, circumference, and diameter. I needed Google’s help to be a better father. That’s a lot of pressure for a company.

Do we risk Google becoming a crutch for our kids when they see us use it that way?

I would hope [my kids] don’t use it as a crutch [rather,] just as another resource.

When I grew up, encyclopedias were my Google. That guy who went door-to-door selling them must have crushed it. Every house had one regardless of how poor you were. [Encyclopedias] were the only place to get information.

When I was in 5th grade, there was a show on PBS called “News Clues.” Every day, there would be a clue that you had to figure out by reading the newspaper or watching the news. One day it was “Tragedy in Russia.”

The original keywords…

[Laughs.] Yeah. Well, I didn’t want to sit through an hour newscast so I just called up the news station directly and talked to a reporter. Told him what the assignment was and got the answer.

So how do brands operate in an environment where everyone just relies on Google?

It’s a rough road. You need to build trust. It’s this whole friend-of-a-friend [concept].

Are you familiar with Beets?


It’s these new headphones from MONSTER, the guys who make those cables for music equipment. They’re like $325. They did a deal with Interscope Records and Jimmy Iovine. He got Dr. Dre and these others guys to [lend their credibility] to Beets. They wear them in ads. They plug them on shows.

When I was thinking about buying them I googled “Beets headphones” and there was Dr. Dre everywhere. Tons of reviews.
As a brand, it’s absolutely a must [to build trust and have a strong presence on Google]. Google is not advertising, it’s the foundation of building a brand. I go to Google and look for brand recognition.

If Google’s the end-all-be-all, where does all that stuff you sell [at Adconion Media Group] fit in?

You can’t put all your eggs in one basket. There will always be another outlet. There will also be another place [consumers] ingest [information and content].

Back to my kids. How do they know all the music and words to all these songs? We grew up with the radio playing the same 12 songs. They listen to Hits 1 and Disney on Sirius. That’s how they get their [entertainment]. And there’s no interruption.

There are many other ways they ingest [information and content]. If there were only one way, we’d all be a bunch of machines.

Kids will watch commercials that are relevant and entertaining. They love the Dr. Pepper ads which actually feature Dr. Dre sporting Beets headphones.

If it’s relevant, it works. If it’s not, it doesn’t. That’s what Google does.

How [does Google] scale relevance?

I don’t think they’ll find anything better than the current [model] that will work as well or make them as much money.

Well, they’re big into mobile and still in TV. Print and Radio failed.

I applaud their intentions. That’s good R&D. Those were not failures.

The phone business is key [for Google]. You have mass adoption. You have these smart phones that can do everything.

Google could own the market in TV with its algorithm.

Google’s actually rumored to be working with Intel and Sony on a new TV operating system.

Google shouldn’t get involved in anything that doesn’t have reach, scale, and efficiency [which TV does have].

YouTube didn’t take off as quickly as most people thought because there wasn’t enough focus on it. The $250-300mm [that YouTube brings in] is a rounding error for [Google].

I thought search would hit a ceiling. I was wrong. I thought how many searches would people really do. But [Google] made it easy to search anywhere [and anytime].

What Google did to gain market share is what brands need to do for their products. It’s about making your brand accessible anywhere.

[It’s also about building trust.] Google has a habit of rarely failing its customers. I’d guess its approval rating is north of 90%. When I search on Google, if the information’s not there, it doesn’t exist. I will never do a second search.

You won’t go to Yahoo?

No. In every industry, there’s a number 1 and number 2. When you think Coke, you think of Pepsi nipping at its heels. Mercedes and BMW. When you think Google, who else do you think of?

I’ll tell you where you might start thinking about someone else. It’s when you have a technology that’s not just a search engine but a search-and-act engine. It’s a platform that takes your query “LGA to SFO” and knows your preferences and not only retrieves relevant links but knows you fly American Airlines and stay at Marriotts and comes back to you with a personalized itinerary and asks if you’d like to use the credit card on file.

It’s KITT from Knight Rider. It knows me and helps me make decisions. It’s not a decision engine, it’s a thought-partner.

Google can win [the search-and-act game] because there’s that trust factor. People will happily turn over their personal info [to Google].

Or Google can just buy the company that develops it first.

The question that I have is, “Where do humans matter here?” How do we help decisioning?

I like to say it’s man AND machine. There’s that story about John Adams. [Pauses to google it]. Check that, John Henry. He competed against a machine, [reads Wikipedia entry] no, a mechanical hammer, to chop down trees. In the end, he beat the machine but died with the hammer in his hand from a heart attack.

  • nyb

    John Adams, the Tree Chopping Man. Rock on.

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