Google Chrome … The Early Marketing Chronicles

Make no mistake… I love Google. I love the way their products just work and over the years, have come to love their marketing as well… Remember ‘the 1 GB inbox’ Gmail… it carved out a space where apparently none existed… It was a perfect flanking attack which shocked Yahoo and proved to be disruptive. Chrome was another of those launches from Google stable which like gmail competed in a significantly mature market and have a great potential to be disruptive.

While the strategic objectives for Chrome go much beyond merely gaining few % points in browser market, the marketing objectives must have been pretty clear from day 1 : Create a positive emotion around the product which would supplement the visibility garnered by the usual Google PR machinery & hence create a strong foot hold amongst the early adopters…

Tough task considering the market was very comeptitive and needed an innovative circuit breaker… Innovative was what Google chose by becoming the first company to launch a major product using a comic book… yes, I actually mean a comic book. Who does that right … well apparently, those who do get huge amount of PR, not only in mainstream web media but at places that actually matter for early adopters, those fabled geek hangouts … Round 1 to Google, Well played…

But this is old news… almost 8 months old now… the fizz from comic book is largely gone… & meanwhile the product has stablized a bit… has found acceptance amongst fanboys… is gaining new users every day because of the hard push its getting from Google’s virtual estate (try accessing google.com using IE &  get bombarded with a free Chrome ad… ditto with youtube and gmail) and Google’s real world  clout (Google has cut few OEM deals for Chrome already)… now would be the perfect time for the next phase of marketing… Marketing objectives presumably would change to expanding user base and becoming more mainstream, and probably go beyond 1.2% the browser currently commands.

& Google has tried… by shifting from comic books to videos… and essentially trying to get community to do their marketing. In theory it makes great sense – Get the beehive to create your videos…  they would almost definitely be cool and they would be free…

The end result is 12 great videos. All submitted by amateurs like us and all of them look great.

Two shining examples of seemingly great stuff. But is Chrome perfect in its marketing… is it doing all it can do. Is it this hard to go beyond 1.2% despite all the hard push its getting?

There is no doubt that Google’s execution has been beyond rapproach but they could certainly do a lot better on market positioning front … lets think a bit here, IE is ‘The ubiquitious browser’, FF is ‘The safe browser’… What is Chrome… they used to be somewhere in between ‘The fastest browser’ or ‘The simplest browser’… in last 8 months they have moved further south and are trying to become a browser that is great in everything (Right now they are ‘A new web browser’ … Really Google?? Hope you are just testing that positioning statement and would get rid of it soon)

& then they could have certainly done a better job of naming their key features… think of their choice of ‘In-cognito’ for privacy feature… Great buzz word… yes, Communicates the benefit to the end customer clearly… no

Think of what microsoft did with same feature in IE8 – ‘In Private’ … firefox folks – ‘Private Browsing’… I can bet that perceived first mover for this feature would be Microsoft not Google (& this despite the fact that Chrome debuted this feature in mainstream when people had hardly heard about Safari and IE8 betas offering privacy features) & perception is all that matters in marketing world.

Chrome needs to understand that its operating in a world where 92% of people don’t understand the meaning of word ‘browser’ … not many would understand In-cognito…

Also have a look at the first TV ad they chose to air…

Very cute… this ad was designed to emphasize the clean and uncluttered interface of the software compared to its competitors and it does that too… but only to people who already know Chrome. It has a call to action in last frame, but that effect is negated to a great extent as for a first timer Chrome can be an OS, a Kid’s Game, A browser, A decorative piece… all with equal probabilities.

Chrome has delivered master-strokes (like the comic book launch) … some of them need some refining before they can help Chrome go beyond 1.2%… its a good product and certainly deserves a double digit market share at least.

Do it Google. You have a wonderful product and a wonderful execution team. Focus your energies on one single benefit and beat the hell out of your communication. Do it right and soon you would be no 3 (or if luck is with you, no 2)…

3 thoughts on “Google Chrome … The Early Marketing Chronicles

  1. You are right Vaneet in the analysis of Chrome’s TVC (television commercial) that the call for action is made only in the last frame and that too leaves much to imagination of the normal users.

    I’d like to add something here. As you rightly said, Chrome was not a new product, nor a new category. It marked Google’s foray in an already saturated (or, at least occupied) marketplace of browsers where the IEs, FFs, Netscapes, Operas and so many already had their respective user-base, all with some positioning. In that market space, it is never easy to come and cut a lion’s share.

    Moreover, technology is one domain where you cannot target very common users until your product is very generic (or, general) where at least the implications and differences are clear to the larger user-base. For example, if it is a mobile phone, there is a good awareness among even the tech-ignorants that a mobile has multiple applications. So, when comes to a mass mobile marketing you’d see lots of ads highlighting camera, video, music, battery features. But, not many ads you’ll see where a Blackberry would be advertising its product comparable to another mobile phone.

    This is so, because business phone marketers know that they are not selling to a first timer. Probably they could not till recently. But, with mobile becoming a toothbrush-like commodity, we’ll get to see such feature-rich ads soon.

    You can target everyone or a larger base when you are advertising a product/service that the masses know. But, new users and novices look at technology with a definite bit of phobia or alien-ness. Go and ask a common computer or itnernet user to download and install something on his/her computer and you’ll come across a definite level of resistance, even if you volunteer to help. People don’t like to fiddle with their computers.

    At least not with their browsers when they know that they already got one with their OS (operating system) and there is no need for another browser when the whole world is happily using what is prevalent. They go for what is norm instead of perceiving it as tempering with their system. For, you rightly said, over 90 per cent of the users still do not know what exactly the term browser would mean on their computer.

    So, in the case of niche IT products, this is a bold technique of targeting the most prolific and proficient consumers instead of those who are unsure, afraid or irregular users.

    This strategy may appear to be risky or non-remunerative, as you can also see by the example of just 1.2 per cent share acquired by it till date.

    But, trust me, this top down approach, to me, appears as the best approach, especially when Google is not depending solely on Chrome for its business. Chrome is currently is one important tool for them to multiple goals:
    1. Leverage the markets and categories where they already are leaders
    2. Test the market for their bigger product, i.e. the Operating System
    3. Infiltrate through a smaller product and create loyal consumers who can tomorrow embrace their bigger product (the OS) with which Chrome will also come as a bundle product
    4. Collect and analyze user behaviour, which is the biggest requirement for a category player like Google

    Going beyond these objectives and coming back to their strategy, I’d also like you to see the dividends and benefits of their current approach in this strategy of Google:
    1. They did not become yet another browser in the cluttered marketplace.
    2. Their positioning was clear. They targeted the proficient and prolific users and that comprises the majority of Chrome’s user base today
    3. Tomorrow, they may also patronize their other products
    4. As far user behaviour is concerned, Google is gathering analysis and information on the best category of internet users

    5. But, the biggest benefit that you may like to see is that… Well, first visualize one situation as example. You are a Tech wizard. When people around you have to buy a computer, laptop, anti-virus or any IT product, who do they consult. They trust in you. Everybody looks up to someone they know closely as a high-end IT user. Now, when Google/Chrome first acquired you as its loyal customer, you know that they also acquired the secondary and tertiary users through you who’ll stick to them.

    No other strategy could have paralleled this. At the same time, proficient users as the first batch of a product (esp. when it is a free product) help a lot in debugging and improving the product with feedbacks, before it is actually ready for the mass marketing.

    Happy Chroming !!!

  2. Deepak, I agree with you that Chrome had to target the early adopters to get a foothold in the market in its launch communication. They have been successful to a large extent there.
    Now Google needs to move beyond 1.2, 1.3% market share it has got from early adopters, they might slowly nudge upwards doing more of same but if they want to become a significant player quickly, they would at least need to define their positioning clearly, instead of just being ‘A new web browser’ …
    Rest, as you said, marketing is a small part of overall game that Google is playing. Still many points to go before we would be able to see the winner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.