Google sees brand as key to expansion

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Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif.
Brand established: 1998
2003 advertising: $2.4 million
Brand equity: N/A
CoreBrand ranking: N/A
Roth: “Google has become a verb, and that’s great as long as you can continue to own the category.”
Ries: “The dominant Internet search brand.”
Roth: “They run the greatest risk of being just fashion, because there are plenty of people right now trying to figure out how they can beat that technology.”
Ries: “While Google is wasting time and resources on e-mail, its competitors are focusing on improving their search products. Google should use its resources to stay ahead of the search business.”

Google has always done things its own way, zigging when others zagged. And its brand-building efforts, going back to day one in 1998, have been no exception.

"The simplicity of the Google experience [for users] was contrary to the rest of the Web at the time, and it helped develop their brand image among users," said Niki Scevak, an analyst with JupiterResearch. "That utilitarian value of the site when many portals looked like traveling circuses certainly played a part," he said.

Branding has always been a priority for Google's creators. "We believe that the brand identity that we have developed has significantly contributed to the success of our business," said co-owners Sergey Brin and Larry Page, in their Securities and Exchange Commission filing for the company's initial public offering. "We also believe that maintaining and enhancing the Google brand is critical to expanding our base of users, advertisers and Google Network members."

The company's brand power was reflected in the extensive media coverage the IPO generated.

If you "google" Google, you get 57.4 million results on the popular search engine. On the Yahoo! site, it yields 65.8 million hits, and MSN kicks up 13.9 million links.

"The sheer amount of results returned is indicative of how many people are talking about Google," Scevak said. "Given that they have such a high awareness-almost a media obsession-the ad spend needed is minimal compared to the overall business. Media spend is a small component of the overall spend."

Google has been concentrating on maximizing its relationships with advertisers. Scevak noted that much of its business is "self-service advertising," in which an ad account is opened and managed by the advertiser, with outside help from search engine marketing companies that assist with such elements as keyword strategy, bid management and analysis. "Google is a pioneer of that self-service advertising," Scevak said.

Google's own marketing spending has included online advertising, sponsorships and offline media such as print. The company augments its advertising with event marketing and sales-driven "road shows."

Its most recent push has been to attract online publishers to contextual advertising. "That's a major push by Google into the b-to-b space," Scevak said. "The media spend has shifted to the publishers."

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