Google Embraces Emotional Branding

There is no doubt that Google is very useful to people around the world, but what does the Google brand mean beyond usefulness? No one really knows, but that’s something Google wants to change. In 2010, Google began advertising its own brand and products with an emotionally-charged ad that ran during the Super Bowl. It was the first story Google would tell in an attempt to create Google branded experiences that connected with consumer emotions. Fast forward two years later, and the strategy seems to be working.

google drinksClaire Cain Miller wrote an excellent article for The New York Times about Google’s push toward emotional branding that ties directly to many of the concepts discussed in my previous articles on the AYTM blog. From emotional branding to experiential branding, Google is making an effort to become more than a useful brand.

Google and Emotions

Google is the go-to brand for useful online products and services. Whether you want to search for something, use a free email service, publish a free blog, upload videos or images, or just about any other activity, there is a Google tool that makes it free and easy to do it. However, usefulness doesn’t necessarily equate to the level of brand loyalty that brands like Apple, Harley Davidson, and Harry Potter enjoy. Google wants its share of emotional connections with consumers.

If you’ve seen a Google ad or Google-branded video over the past year or two, you’ve probably been emotionally moved in some way by the content of that video. Whether you saw a touching ad on television that told the story of a couple finding true love or watched the 2011 Google Zeitgeist video that spread across the Web during the past couple of weeks (you can watch it here), you’ve probably experienced some type of emotion thanks to Google’s clever marketing team.

And Google’s marketing team isn’t trying to hide their attempts to make you feel. Claire Cain Miller quoted Lorraine Twohill, Google vice president for global marketing, who said, “If we don’t make you cry, we fail. It’s about emotion, which is bizarre for a tech company.” Nope, Google isn’t making any excuses for its bold attempts to build emotional connections to its brand by telling stories about people.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that Google, a company long associated with data, data, and more data, is abandoning its reliance on numbers to develop its brand strategy. On the contrary, Google is attempting to marry emotion with data by backing up each marketing decision with hard numbers. For example, Miller cites Google’s dependence on data to decide which ad to show during the Super Bowl and the company’s reliance on detailed spreadsheets to choose a location for its annual Google Zeitgeist conference. While emotion is the focal point of Google’s advertising, it’s not at the heart of its decision-making. Numbers still reign supreme.

So far, Google’s emotional ads have been very successful. The ads don’t tout product features and benefits. They don’t push products at all. Instead, they tell stories, and that’s why Google believes they’ve been successful. No one wants to have products pushed at them, but they’re willing to listen to stories. Again, Miller quotes Google’s Twohill who said, “It’s important to remind people why Google matters, how it’s had an impact on people’s lives, what life was like before this.” So far, it seems to be working.

Google and Experiences

At the same time, Google is trying to bring its online brand into more tangible, human experiences. As the company grows, more products are introduced, and more competition arises, Google has learned that its goal of integrating its products so people become Google-dependent won’t work if, as Twohill explains, consumers don’t know “what these products are and how you can use them.”

In tandem with its emotional advertising push, Google has launched branded experiences such as Google conferences. Guiding all of these tangible experiences was the goal to bring the brand to life in a manner that accurately portrays the brand image and promise of simplicity and fun. Most people have heard about the atmosphere in Google offices, so conference planners try to bring that atmosphere to branded Google experiences, too.

Branded experiences also give Google an opportunity to surround consumers with Google products and services, building the case for integration among smaller audiences who can then take those messages to the larger online crowd.

Bottom-line, Google is a brand to benchmark. It’s a powerful brand and company, but instead of falling victim to the common brand arrogance that comes with success, Google is making a concerted effort to build the missing part of its brand, emotional involvement, that will help secure its position regardless of the macro- and micro-environmental factors that come along.

Image:Flickr

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.