Digital Conference

CMO Lorraine Twohill on Managing Brand Google

The Marketer Discusses How Search Giant's Role in Global Crises Helps Build the Brand

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For Google, the product has always been the marketing. Well, almost always. As the company moves into more new products and pushes them in more markets, the marketing at Google has grown with it. Can you imagine a TV ad for Google's Chrome browser? They're on the air in Brazil, the Czech Republic and Germany. Google billboards? They exist in the country Google search isn't No. 1: Japan.

Lorraine Twohill
Lorraine Twohill Credit: Rob Tannenbaum

But most of what Google does in marketing is to raise awareness for new tools and technologies built by engineers, which in turn builds the brand. Case in point: Google developed technology to help displaced people in Japan and used TV ads to encourage people to use it, and more than 600,000 have done so. In Egypt, a Google marketing exec became a spokesman for the revolution, and Google created Speak to Tweet to allow citizens to communicate on Twitter via voice calls after the internet was shut down.

Managing brand Google is Chief Marketing Officer Lorraine Twohill, who addressed Ad Age's Digital Conference this morning. We caught up with her for a Q&A beforehand.

Ad Age: When do you decide to get Google involved in global crises such as Egypt or Japan?

Ms. Twohill: Most of the time its obvious when we can help. Connecting people and solving problems through technology is what we do. If they build a cool tool, we need to tell the world about it. Sometimes my team builds it, sometimes we're just pushing the story out.

Ad Age: How has Google's approach to marketing changed over the past few years?

Ms. Twohill: When I joined eight years ago I was the first marketing hire outside the U.S. In that time we've become a much more complex company with a lot more products. We have a lot of competitors and we are entering more industries. In the past we relied on the press and PR, but now the world is a different place and we're a different place -- bigger and more complex -- so we have to tell our story.

Ad Age: Is Google becoming a more conventional marketer?

Ms. Twohill: We don't do marketing in a conventional way. You won't see us buying a ton of traditional media. All the marketing you see from us we try to bring it to one simple concept. We are very aware we have to reach a very wide audience -- its pretty much everybody on the web. It's easy for us to complicate things if we want to but having the discipline to get back to a simple message is very important.

Ad Age: Chrome is the third-most popular browser at AdAge.com; how is it doing around the world?

Ms. Twohill: Marketing is a major driver for Chrome; we've got a global campaign in 20 countries. We use the web a lot to market Chome because it's an obvious fit, but in the U.S. and Europe we have done print and outdoor campaigns, and we've tested TV ads in Brazil, the Czech Republic and Germany. We found where there is a huge internet cafe culture given it's fast and easy to use, it takes off at an incredible rate. These are countries where next to no one knew what a browser was or what Chrome was. We've been trying to help them understand they have a choice and that the browser matters. It's about speed and simplicity.

Ad Age: How does Google market a concept like "cloud" apps to consumers?

Ms. Twohill: We are big believers that life will be better for you if you can move from your laptop to your phone tablet and your TV and the experience is the same. I can make any computer mine by doing that. That is the journey we are on and we are very excited about that. I can leave work at the computer on my desk and turn on a tablet and my same emails are there and my photos are there and my songs are there. My life is there. The minute you go back to the way it used to be it's a killer!

Ad Age: For a lot of consumer products like mobile phones and TV set-tops, Google is an "ingredient" brand, like Intel. How do you manage those relationships?

Ms. Twohill: We don't think everything we build has to be called Google. When we have partners who are deeply engaged with us in technology like Android and Google TV. We are an ingredient of that experience. We're careful about who gets to use our brand. I review a lot of asks. It will typically be with partners we are deep in a relationship with who are important to us are doing something wonderful with our products.

Ad Age: Your most memorable TV ad to Americans was your "Parisian Love" spot in the 2010 Super Bowl. How are you using TV abroad?

Ms. Twohill: After Street View was launched in Germany, we had lots of problems with regulators. Once we educated everyone we did run TV ads for Street View. It was right for the German market because we needed to explain what we were doing. We don't do image advertising. The Street View ads would be the closest we've done to that.

Ad Age: What do you do to try to alter the perception of Google among European governments?

Ms. Twohill: We've been working with many European governments on economic impact studies. We have so many small business products -- many of them free. With Google Art Project, we worked with 17 big museums and helped them put their beautiful masterpieces on the web. For these museums it's a way to show their beautiful masterpieces and for those to be used in classrooms around the world. It really did help us tremendously to build a bridge with those governments and those museums. Its partnering with local elites and government and doing something good for the world.

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