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Google turned an inevitable corner after its IPO in 2004, going from popular, quirky search engine to a goliath in the online space. The latest scuttlebutt at press time had the 7-year-old search giant teaming up with cable company Comcast and duking it out with Microsoft to acquire a stake in Time Warner's AOL.

Google has introduced a range of products and services this year. These include mobile search, desktop search, Web site ad targeting, an RSS reader, advertising in RSS feeds, blog search, mobile blogging, free calling and instant messaging for Gmail users, personalized search history, 3D mapping, Google video and Google Mini, its enterprise search appliance.

Meanwhile, the Google brand has remained rock solid, a remarkable feat given that the company spent a mere $4.6 million in advertising in 2004, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Targeted advertising is the priority; the company does very little in terms of branding.

"We haven't taken the bait of doing broad, unfocused advertising," said Christopher Escher, director of marketing programs at Google. "The marketing activity for Google takes its lead from our product. We're focused on `super-relevant' marketing."

That focus includes house ads in its Adwords product, banner ads, direct mail, radio and out-of-home advertising.

Constant testing and channel agnosticism are the mantra. "We use a bunch of different channels for each campaign, depending on what works," Escher said. "We encourage `test, optimize, test' in Adwords."

Direct mail has been a particularly effective media channel for Google's b-to-b solution-based marketing programs. Google uses direct mail in both solo efforts and with co-marketing partners in which it explains its Adwords and Adsense advertising products to prospective customers.

"The [Adwords and Adsense] products target different types of publishers and Web sites, but there is significant overlap and some publishers want to do both," Escher said. The mailer gives them a more in-depth view of the benefits and differences between the two products.

In addition to solution selling, Google does product-specific marketing to finely targeted customer segments where it makes sense. Escher said each situation determines whether the company markets by product or by sets of solutions. "All of our marketing activities undergo an extremely rigorous ROI analysis and projections," he said. "We're in a constant state of iterating all of our marketing programs and activities."

Media channels work in concert, and each channel is important. "Your online advertising supports direct mail, which supports location marketing and so on," Escher said. "Out of home will not perform in terms of what you can test vs. a house ad, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have its place."

Finally, the company gets a significant branding boost from the extensive media attention it receives. "It is a key component of our overall marketing efforts, and it has been a key driver over the years to facilitate the word-of-mouth on Google and its services," said Mike Mayzel, advertising PR manager at Google.

-Carol Krol

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