Point of View

Google It

by Michael D'Antonio

It’s not difficult to find reasons to heap praise upon Google’s assent and reign as one of the world’s preeminent innovation companies. Pundits and analysts inside and outside The Valley have scoured their online thesauri for superlatives that can do justice to the rapid prototyping, relentless innovation and market-moving force multiplier that is Google.

But doing innovative things isn’t enough in an oversaturated, hyperkinetic marketplace – you still have to tell your story. And Google tells their story well. The reason is that they approach their brand story the same way they approach their product development with rapid prototyping, nontraditional teams, over-communication and an insistence to keeping the human benefit at the forefront of any technological breakthrough.

Robert Wong, CCO of Google Lab, the internal creative shop at planet Google, has developed three specific ways to inextricably link story to product in an intimate, organic way. His process provides an interesting lesson for any brand that wants to connect in a deeper, more meaningful way to its consumer.

The first thing Wong does is to allow storytellers at Google to affect the product itself. That is, instead of the product team building stuff for the marketing team to sell, the storytellers get upstream and help develop the actual thing they will ultimately sell. The marketing team knows the consumer and the marketplace better than the product engineer. By baking this expertise into the product offering, the entire process becomes more organic, fluid and relevant to the end user.

Second, Wong believes in the philosophy of “get out of the way of the product.” You can see that philosophy come to life in a compelling, elegant way in the “Dear Sophie” spot from last year. There is no fabrication, melancholy or melodramatic heartstring tug – no ad tricks.  It is simply a well-composed, well-crafted product demonstration. To do this well, you need a great product, which is also a good lesson for brands. The creative work only works when the product does. Google is smart enough to know that the days of smoke and mirrors ended with the first organic search query.

Finally, Wong believes in getting out of the way of the audience. When the time came to advertise YouTube, Mr. Wong's team approached director Ridley Scott, but they didn’t ask him to shoot an action sequence with a helicopter. They simply asked him to produce "Life in a Day," a documentary distributed by the National Geographic Channel showing scenes from around the world in a single day – all shot by YouTube users.

These are simple lessons – get the marketers and creatives upstream into product development, get out of the way of the product and always look for opportunities to celebrate real human behavior like "Life in a Day." The result is work that doesn’t feel like work. It isn’t self-conscious or self-reflexive. It isn’t cynical or forced. It is easy, even welcome. As all good creative should be.