Categories: Laura

Google Today, Gone Tomorrow?

    What’s a Google? It’s a search engine. Want to find something online, you Google it.

    Advertising, the money making machine for Google, accounts for practically all of its revenue. Google also depends mostly on the English-speaking market in the United States and the U.K. for 59% of its revenue.

    After domination of a category like search, the question business leaders and investors always have is, What's next?

    What's next is usually taking the incredible success of the mother brand and extending it into new areas. As well as gobbling up lots of other companies and rebranding them with the same brand name.

    This is exactly Google's pattern today. And it's exactly the pattern of many companies yesterday. Companies like Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo.

    If you know me, you know what I’m going to say next. It is a mistake.

    The power of a brand comes from its ability to own a word in the mind. The more things you put your brand name on, the weaker that name becomes in the mind.

    Say Yahoo to somebody today and they yawn. It means nothing because it over-extended and over-expanded its brand, leaving itself vulnerable to competition.

    Say AOL and you think dial-up and failed mergers and expansions.

    In the short term, it is hard to see the dangers of expansion. The "Let’s Google everything" strategy gives a boost to the company and more importantly the stock. While consumers and investors get fooled into thinking the strategy is sound, it is not.

    (Company leaders who think in the short term are likely to run their companies into the ground.)

    Yesterday, Google announced it was going to rename several non-Google brands as Google products. So say goodbye to Picasa and Blogger. Hello Google Photos and Google Blogs.

    This is on top of the other Google brands such as: Google Alerts, Google Earth, Google Image Search, Google Labs, Google Local, Google Mobile, Google News, Google Video, Gmail, Google Analytics (Web traffic measurement), Google Chrome (Web browser), Google Desktop Search, Google Language Tools (translation tools), Google Talk (instant messaging), Google Toolbar.

    But Google isn’t stopping there, its much-talked-about social-networking brand Google+ is coming soon. Google hopes Google+ will be a Facebook killer.

    Just like Bing was going to be a Google killer?

    The problem with Picasa won’t be solved by calling it Google Photos. The problem with Picasa is that wasn’t first and doesn’t dominate its category. Flickr does.

    Launched in 1999, Blogger was one of the first blog-publishers. But its generic name made it harder to cement the Blogger brand into the mind. In 2003, Google bought Blogger.

    Google has done better with other acquisitions that not only were pioneers in a category like Blogger, but also had superior brand names. Namely, YouTube and Android. Wisely, Google plans on changing neither of these names.

    Google is a monster today. And like most monsters, it thinks it is invincible and not subject to the laws of marketing. But nothing could be further than the truth.

    Google should study history. They don’t want to be the AOL or Yahoo of tomorrow. Google needs to surround its strong search brand with other brands and other brand names that dominate new emerging categories.

     Toyota did that with Lexus, Prius and Scion. Google that Google.

Laura Ries :

View Comments (21)

  • While I agree that over-extension has diluted the Google brand, that doesn't necessarily mean that all brand extensions are wrong-headed. In this case, I think that Google is correctly trying to do two things.
    First, they must protect search, their core strength. Increasingly users are going to pages from social media rather than through search. It would be foolhardy to stand idly by and watch search power dissipate and not develop a strategy for winning.
    Second, after several failed attempts at jumping on the social media bandwagon, this may be an opportune window. Whether or not Facebook is potentially a Google killer, it's power, ubiquity and hold on users' time is a threat, to say the least.
    Great brands innovate. Great brands evolve. Great brands stay relevant. I don't know if Google+ will win or lose, but I think it's a viable shot at not having the social media train leave without them.

  • The mind admires the complex but embraces the simple. Only by understanding how perceptions are formed in the mind can one learn how to create categories.
    What mind has the ability to comprehend 1000's of brands? No mind can do this which is why it creates categories. Google is a mess which is why many top employees are leaving. They should be implmenting a P&G strategy by creating multiple brands with new names.
    While phrases like "date collection" and "organizing connections" may sound cool it will never reach the mind of the mass market.
    Simple sticks in the mind.

  • Google is a giant king. The king of internet, no matter what haters say, Google will always be on top of the internet. Great project, Google always has innovative ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  • Wow this looks so delicious! I need to try this back at home, I cant wait to server this to my kids. Thanks for the great recipe.

  • For this matter, once I discussed with one of my friends, not only about the content you talked about, but also to how to improve and develop, but no results. So I am deeply moved by what you said today.

  • "Great online utilities"!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME???
    Who thinks like that?
    Google is a search engine to any normal human being. It's always "google it" - Google IS a search brand, the worlds most powerful one.
    That being said it is true that the I use other services alongside the search engine, such as Translate. I just see them as added tools to the google search engine.
    I don't use Blogger, why would I? What do google know about Blogging? I have Wordpress for that!
    Forget Picas, I have Flickr for that, and Google Videos? when does anyone use them - You just go to youtube for videos.
    I used to use Google Docs, until EVERNOTE came along.
    I think Google can do 'added extras' very well, but totally different things like Google Pics, Google Blogs - while they will be successful to some extent I'm sure, are never likely to be world-leading brands.

  • On the one hand I get your point regarding the possible dilution of the Google brand. On the other hand, as a user of Google products I’m not really concerned with the name; I care more about what the tool does and why I should use it. Keeping or changing the names Picasa and Blogger won’t get me to use those services unless they introduce features that make me want to switch from Flickr and Wordpress. Their current branding method might be a good idea for getting users to try additional tools because everything is in one place and they don’t have to guess at what the services do.
    However, I do take issue with Google Video. If there’s already YouTube and that’s all about videos then what exactly is Google Video? I don’t care enough to investigate so I just choose to ignore Google Video.