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Whose brand does Google want to build?

Google announced its Q1 earnings late last week and posted a profit of $2.3 billion. That’s billion. With a “B”. Pretty good, huh? For GOOG, anyways. But what about for you? If you’re like most businesses, you probably rely on Google to help you build your brand online. You’re a key contributor to those billions per quarter flowing to Google’s bottom line. But, the real question is, whose brand is Google interested in building?

Let’s take a look.

Google believes its mission is “…to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Awesome, right? After all, there’s is no question that we’ve all benefited from that lofty mission time and again, in areas both critical and trivial. Want to find a great consultant to grow your business? Google it. Want to find the nearest hospital? Google it. Want to know who sang late-70’s one-hit wonder, “Hot Child in the City”? You get the idea.

The next question Google’s mission creates is “…universally accessible and useful” for whom? After all, one of the most important questions any business can ask and answer for itself is, “Who is my customer?” In Google’s case, its value proposition to advertisers (i.e., you), is its ability to provide increasingly targeted advertising to consumers. But, just because you’re helping pay Google’s bills, does that automatically make you Google’s customer? Are they organizing all that information just for advertisers?

Um… no.

The number one item in the company’s “Ten things we know to be true” states, “Focus on the user and all else will follow.”

Google wants to make the world’s information accessible and useful for users. Consumers. Its customer. Advertisers like you are just a means to accomplish that goal.

And this isn’t new in business. Loads of businesses use a multi-platform approach, using revenues from one source to subsidize another. For instance, I doubt The New York Times would ever refer to advertisers as its customer. American Express almost always prioritizes its cardholders over the merchants who pay for each transaction. And Google uses advertisers to fund its significant investments into improving search for its users.

None of this is to suggest “Google is Evil” or that they’re out to hurt your business. They’re not. It’s just that they’re unlikely to care if your business gets hurt. You probably never think about any of the bugs that splatter on your windshield. In this case, though, Google’s the one in the driver’s seat and its various platforms—search, mobile, local, maps—represent the windshields of its various cars.

By the way, you can usually substitute the “flavor of the month” in online marketing—Facebook, Foursquare, Groupon, and so on—for Google in this equation and get the same result.

Google is an incredibly useful tool to help you grow your brand. Facebook, Foursquare, Groupon and on and on and on may well be useful tools, too, to do the same. Use them for what they’re good for. But remember they’re just one tool in your toolkit. And always remember: the only brand Google wants to build is Google.

Oh. And, Nick Gilder sang “Hot Child in the City.” I Google’d it.

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Tim Peter


Tim Peter built his first website in 1995 and loves that he still gets to do that every day. Tim has spent almost two decades figuring out where customers are, how they interact with brands online, and delivering those customers to his clients’ front door. These efforts have generated billions of dollars in revenue and reduced costs.

Tim works with client organizations to build effective teams focused on converting browsers to buyers and building their brand and business. He helps those companies discover how marketing, technology, and analytics tie together to drive business results. He doesn't get excited because of the toys or tech. He gets excited because of what it all means for the bottom line.

An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. He is a member of the Search Engine Marketers Professional Organization (SEMPO), HSMAI, and the Digital Analytics Association.

Tim currently serves as Senior Advisor at SoloSegment, a marketing technology company that uses machine learning and natural language processing to improve engagement and conversion for large enterprise, B2B companies.

Tim Peter’s recent client work covers a wide range of digital marketing activities including developing digital and mobile marketing strategies, creating digital product roadmaps, assessing organizational capabilities, and conducting vendor evaluations for diverse clients including major hospitality companies, real estate brands, SaaS providers, and marketing agencies.

Prior to launching Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor, the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm, and a major financial services firm, developing various award-winning products and services for his customers. Tim can be reached at tim@timpeter.com or by phone at 201-305-0055.

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