Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Google: Who Are We?

Over the past few weeks, some investors, including myself, have felt a pain in the side that is Google's stock dropping from around 580 to 550, and now its down to 530. This probably has a lot to do with the Buzz complications combined with Apple's iPad and iPhone OS release. However, I unfortunately predict that this trend will continue on a downward path unless Google answers a serious question: who am I? Google's major problem right now is figuring out what type of company it is, and decisively marketing their brand so that people better perceive what Google is all about.

John Battelle pretty much illustrates my point in an article of his own. The reason Google has not been advertising its brand recently is because it has no idea what its brand is. Without a brand, you're chances at competing with other companies drops drastically. It is the brand, and its associated perceptions, that really bring consumers to the table, and either not having a brand or having an incorrect perception of your company can be detrimental for ensuring utility within your company. Adding to this, Holden Page recently posted about how Google is losing the social war. What were his reasons? Brand! People don't see Google as a social networking company, thus they don't go to Google for social networking products. It is exactly this type of problem that is going to cause Google, as well as its investors, a lot of pain in the near future unless this is fixed, and fast.

But what I think the real problem is is not Google choosing a brand, but rather accepting the truth about its brand. I could probably come up with quite a few perceptions about Google as a brand right now. How about Google: The Online Future, or Google: Microsoft without the Evil, or maybe Google: Overlord of your Computer. (Last one was a joke in case you didn't catch it. :) ) Anyway, coming up with the brand is not really the problem, but rather looking at the company, and accepting it for what it is. I know for a fact that a lot of people out there are not going to easily take in the fact that Google is no longer a search engine company, but rather an entire software and online services company. Some have even gone to the lengths of comparing Google to Microsoft, except without the proprietary closed-in company environment. Being able to say your company is like Microsoft is no easy task, especially with their current reputation.

On top of that, not only does the company itself have to accept the brand, but its consumers must do so as well. Which one is harder depends on how you look at it. In Holden's post, he points out how Google "finds stuff", so why would you go to a search engine for social networking? If Google hopes to succeed in social networking, they need to get their users to stop thinking of them as a search engine. Now I said that in company versus consumer acceptance, either one could be more difficult. This is because the two are co-dependent; while it may seem like a company defines its brand, which in turn defines its consumers, in some cases the consumers define the brand, thus defining the company. This is where Google has its biggest challenge: does it define its consumers, or do its consumers define it? Google will have to discover for itself, but either way they are going to need to do some soul-searching if it has any hopes of progressing further in the social media future.

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