In 2007 Andy Berndt resigned from Ogilvy & Mather, New York to head up Google’s new ‘Creative Lab’. The new unit is described as a lab focusing on ‘innovation’ and dedicated to finding ways advertisers, agencies and entertainment companies can intersect.
Not long after the unit sprang into life, the ad industry, in its usual paranoid fashion was rife with rumours suggesting Google was going into the agency business. So what? I hear you say and I whole heartily agree. Who gives a proverbial ‘Platyrrhinis’? – Not I. What interested me more is the fact that Andy thought so much of all the fuss that he penned an email to one of his strategist mates [proving we do have friends] and asked him ‘How the industry could get it so wrong’ – “What?” He asked, “Was wrong with the brand that could confuse the ad industry into believing Google was something other than a ‘Search Engine’
Strategist do have a way of placing their digit on the proverbial solution and Andy’s mate was no exception. “Well!” He answered, “I just don’t get your brand think”. Not a light statement for a brand that’s captured the globe and a few extra cosmos I shouldn’t wonder!
It’s a great response because in searching for the answer myself I have concluded that nobody actually knows Google’s ‘brand think’. In fact the truth is that like all brands and products that have no really obvious motive for business Google suffer a crisis of identity, because people simply replace the vacuum left by any lack of brand clarity with their own idiosyncratic perceptions. In the ad industry’s case it didn’t understand what Google’s real strategic brand thinking was and as a consequence it came to its own conclusions.
So what is Google? Is it a search engine like Yahoo? If it is, what’s the idea of Google Earth; Google Words or indeed The Creative Lab? No one really knows Google‘s intent because its brand doesn’t indicate its intention – its core business and in this lies a secret for all businesses. Brands are more than pretty pictures; more than services or products, they are living organisms and they live. In addition, consumers and the market want to know why they exist. It’s at the heart of a company’s credibility
In Australia recently, academics and pseudo politicians have been exercising their ego’s and telling business that the very communication mechanisms which deliver messages of existence such as ‘Mission Statements’ and ‘Visions’, are all so much gobbledegook. All evidence to the contrary in the case of Google. Here we have one of the biggest international brands exposed, because no one understands why they exist. Sure we use them and yes, they’ve achieved generic status like no other, but they’re still misunderstood and no one is really sure what they are actually doing.
Andy you’ve got your answer, I can’t wait to see your creative solution. Google could take over the world tomorrow and how would we know? Easy we’d just ‘ google it ‘ and find out!