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Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif. Brand established: 1998 2005 advertising: $81.1 million 2006 Interbrand/BusinessWeek ranking: No. 24 Brand value: $15 billion CoreBrand ranking: 19


STRENGTHS: Roth: Google continues to build its stature and reach through innovative thinking, creative product extensions and its bold transformation from a commodity service into a true, highly differentiated media experience. CHALLENGES: Ries: Google is in the same position as IBM was in the early ’80s: They think they can do everything. They are headed for a fall, and when that happens they should pick up the phone and call Lou Gerstner.

By at least two definitions, 2006 can be classified as the year in which the Google brand arrived. The company’s name was listed as a verb in both the Oxford English and the Merriam-Webster dictionaries.

“While it’s true that the brand has some possible icon status on a certain level, ultimately that’s not what we’re aiming for,” said Christopher Escher, director of marketing programs at Google.

The mission of the company is to make the world’s information accessible through product innovation, Escher said. Introductions this year included Adsense Videos; Google Apps for Your Domain, a set of services aimed at small and midsize companies; and Google Checkout, an online payment system.

This was also the year that Google looked to others to enrich its own platform. Earlier this month, it was the $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube Inc., the No. 1 Internet video-sharing site.

Before that, it partnered with Dell to load the Google toolbar for Web and PC search on Dell computers. It received the exclusive rights to provide Web search results and sponsored links on MySpace.

To extend the brand among small-business users, Google inked a pact to add its array of services to most of Intuit’s QuickBooks 2007 products. In a conference call announcing the alliance with Intuit, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the co-marketing agreement could add a million or more online advertisers to the Google network.

Experts say partnerships are a key ingredient in brand-building in the current environment and that Google is smart not to fuel its growth solely through internal product innovation. Its partners are companies that already have a keen sense of their customer base.

“The go-it-alone approach is not part of the formula for success,” said Steven Addis, CEO of brand consultancy Addis Group. “There’s an implied authenticity to reaching out to other brands.”

Rick Segal, CEO of HSR Business to Business, said Google’s brand strength is a work in progress. “In my mind, they are an emergent great brand,” Segal said. “They have created a great business, but I think a lot of what they have as a great brand has yet to be written.”               —M.E.P.

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