Google is one of an elite rank of brands that can generate a lot of PR with very little effort. The tiniest movement from the web giant generates ripples of media coverage and social media chattering across the world.
Like fellow tech company and botherers of the top spot on ‘world’s most valued brand’ rankings, Apple, Google have developed doing and saying fairly little into a PR strategy. Relying on the fact that the world listens when they speak, they only speak when they need to. Where other brands need a creative idea, a strategy and proactive media pitching to gain similar levels of coverage, a change in search algorithms does not need any more than a post on the official Google blog to dominate the tech media for a week. This is down to the reach and effect Google has on our lives, but that is all rooted in their brand equity.
With this in mind, I’ve found it slightly odd to see Google engaging in pro-active PR of late. For instance, Gmail Motion was rightly one of the most lauded April Fools stories this year. Though it was announced in standard passive Google fashion, with a blog post and a tweet, you only need to watch the video to realise that this wasn’t an afterthought bashed out on the afternoon of March 31st. It was not a campaign, but it was a very clever tactic that cannot be described as passive PR.
Then, there are the doodles. Oh, the fantastic Google doodles that none of us seem to be able to stop gushing about. They have been bothering me of late.
Not a new idea, according to the official Google Doodle website the first one was created in 1998 to indicate founders Larry and Sergey’s attendance at the Burning Man festival in Nevada, but they do seem to have been coming thicker and faster recently. They used to pop up for significant national and international holidays, a fun way for the search monolith to show their involvement in celebrations. I would never be so cold to suggest that Roger Hargreaves, creator of many of my childhood memories, or Martha Graham, whose work I studied and admired at University, should not be celebrated (both were commemorated in doodle form last week), but doesn’t two in such quick succession seem a bit much?
Google have clearly noticed that every time they make a tweak to their homepage in any local market (which is the most visited web page in most markets across the world) they send the twittersphere into overdrive. Not many other brands could achieve serious national broadsheet coverage for a simple adjustment to their homepage. Could this be the reason that they are ramping up the frequency? In a situation where they are struggling to create their own popular social media product, perhaps this is part of Google’s coping strategy – their way of making the conversation about them on existing social networks? I find the fact that Google have to stoop to employing any kind of tactics beyond the uninvolved announcements of yore fascinating.