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(An Old) Google Case Study, in Marketing

(An Old) Google Case Study, in Marketing

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Published by Ed Williams
This was a case study that I did for a marketing class at Towson University.
This was a case study that I did for a marketing class at Towson University.

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Published by: Ed Williams on Apr 30, 2010
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Case Study

Edward Williams 12 February 2007 MKTG 341.011

Google Case Study Case Summary

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To understand fully the business that Google is in, one should understand exactly what Google is. Google is an internet search engine, and is currently the largest and most used internet search engine in the World. They operate in more than 80 different languages, have offices in many different areas around the globe, and have apparently even “announced plans to open an office on the moon” (Etzel, Walker, & Stanton, 2007, p. 78). The verb “google” is recognized by many popular dictionaries and means “to use the Google search engine to obtain information ... on the World Wide Web” (MerriamWebster Online Dictionary). Therefore, it should be understood that Google: 1) is in the business of, 2) leads the industry of, and 3) essentially branded searching the internet. While there are many speculations as to why and how Google has become so successful, our book suggests that the technology used behind the search engine is what is really at its core. This technology is a seemingly simplistic programming code that “allows users to conduct swift and accurate searches across the World Wide Web in a matter of seconds.” Larry Page, cofounder of Google further explains, “The perfect search engine would understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want” (Etzel, et al., 2007, p. 76). Google has strived to do just that. Alex Wipperfürth (2005, p. 5), author of Brand Hijack: Marketing Without Marketing suggests that consumers have wised-up to standard marketing practices, and are generally “an audience that rejects marketing.” From a marketing standpoint, Google’s success might be contributed to the fact that their sponsor advertising has always been subtle. It is no secret that people despise pop-up advertisements and busy, loud, and obnoxious banner advertisements. Google follows a policy against pop-up

Google Case Study

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advertisements, and strives to keep advertisements in control with their Google AdWords program. This helps to deliver custom-tailored advertisements to consumers in an orderly and less obnoxious fashion. In what follows, I will offer my thoughts on Google’s expansion strategy. Issues Consumer Expectations Consumers’ expectations of Google and any search engine for that matter are simple; they expect to have a search engine that will help them find what they are looking for based on certain key terms that are entered into a search box. This search should return only the most relevant information based on the term that was entered, and should do so quickly and accurately. Google has obviously been the best among its competition at doing this. As suggested earlier, internet advertising has historically been problematic and consumers want less advertising. Google has also helped consumers to feel less overwhelmed by these advertisements by keeping their no pop-up policy and custom tailoring their advertisements in an orderly fashion. These are two areas where Google has met customer demands. They have provided a necessary service to internet users and have done so in a more desirable and simplistic method than their competition. Google has exceeded customer expectations by providing additional services that people would previously have to go elsewhere for. GMail for instance, which directly competes with Yahoo! Mail and MSN’s Hotmail, allows users to have an email service through (what appears to be) their favorite search provider. In addition to this, upon its release it gave users more than four times the storage capacity of its competition (this has

Google Case Study nearly tripled since then), and the ability to search through archived mail with ease as well. The marketing concept focuses on three components to achieve customer satisfaction and ultimately organizational success. These components are customer orientation, the organization’s performance objectives, and their coordinated marketing activities.

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Google understands its customers; it knows what they want, and it knows the best way to give it to them. One way that Google further relates with its customers is by allowing Google fans to submit their own versions of the company logo to be displayed on a special section of their website. This is a good example of customer orientation in that it provides a direct relationship between the company’s product and its users. Google’s performance objectives are clearly listed in the company’s mission statement and made available to the public on the website. Google’s mission, as the website’s company overview states (“Google Corporate Information”, 2007), “is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The company has done this in an inviting way. Not only do they meet customers’ demands of how to do this responsibly, they seem to exceed those demands by avoiding excessive advertising and collection of personal data. Quality is a major factor in Google’s everyday business. Google’s product is created so simplistically that anybody could use it to search the internet, while simultaneously the programming code works away in the background to provide the best possible feedback in the least amount of time. Google’s ease of use, stylishness, and customer-friendliness all have contributed to the creation of value within the customers’

Google Case Study

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minds. These coordinated marketing activities along with their organizational objectives and customer orientation have created great customer satisfaction and have their users, sometimes called googlers, coming back time and time again for their internet searching needs. Company Strengths and Weaknesses To understand Google’s strengths and weaknesses best, one should do a cumulative SWOT analysis of the company. Google’s SWOT analysis might look like this: (S)trengths  Current industry leaders  Understand the customers (O)pportunities  Ever-changing technologies  Higher speed connections and growing popularity of other internet services (i.e., entertainment and shopping) Notice that technologies are listed under both opportunities and threats. This is because depending on the type of new technology, and whether or not Google is able to get on board with the new technology determines whether it is an opportunity or a threat. Another threat is the intense competition that Google faces, which will be examined further later. Google is good at understanding exactly what its users want, and being able to satisfy these wants better than their competition can. However, one thing that Google (W)eaknesses  Many target markets  Customer orientation could be better (T)hreats  Strong competition  Ever-changing technologies

Google Case Study

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could use some work on is customer orientation. There are not many ways for customers to interact with Google aside from the aforementioned Google fan logos and the recently offered personalized Google homepage (which Yahoo! had already offered users long before). External macroenvironmental factors affecting Google are as follows: political and legal forces may not appear to be significant for Google while operating within the United States, but in other counties where they have offices the company needs to be familiar with the politics and laws of those other countries. The same goes for social and cultural forces; Google wants to be sure that something that they do does not offend members of another culture with whom they are operating. Demographics are important: keep in mind many people are not able to afford to have access to the internet, how does Google interact with these people. This problem could also fall under the category for a country’s economic condition. Competition and technology are the main contributing factors to Google’s marketing program. As mentioned before technology can be good or bad for Google. For instance, the ability for cell phones to search the World Wide Web has been good for Google because they have been able to offer a mobile version of their website to users. However, there is the possibility that computer’s will be replaced with a new and better technology (though, not in the foreseeable future), and thus Google will have to reinvent itself to fit into this new technology. There is also the possibility that technological advancements will allow someone to come up with a service that would make Google’s search engine obsolete – something that is better and faster. This brings us to the concept of competition. Competitive Analysis and Strategies

Google Case Study

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Google’s competition is fierce. There are innumerable amounts of search engines all across the internet. Google is currently the most popular of them. Among the top rankings are Yahoo! Search, MSN, and Ask.com. Yahoo! is Google’s biggest competitor in both the search engine and email areas. Although Google is quickly expanding to include online shopping, video search, and other useful products, Yahoo! has for years offered some things that Google has yet to introduce. These include online games and a special and interactive music search that allows you to view music videos and artist biographies as well as listen to (and even create your own) online radio streams. Alternatives Qualitative/ Quantitative Analysis Quality and quantity are two big components in business. According to Etzel, et al (2007, p. 516), “Both quantitative and qualitative measures should be used to formulate a complete picture of performance.” A qualitative analysis might include questions such as, how might customers needs be better served, and what products and services would help customers to have a better experience? A quantitative approach might ask, how many customers am I satisfying, and how many of my products and services are providing customers with a positive experience? Both of these approaches are useful in business, either by assessing satisfaction through, a “specific and objective” (quantitative) approach or by “reflecting on broader dimensions of behavior” (qualitative). Furthermore, upon analyzing this information Google should realize that while what they are doing is currently satisfying their users, they would likely gain more users if they took steps to provide a better user experience. Suggestions might include more user interaction to provide users a feeling of being connected on a more personal level

Google Case Study

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with the company. Yahoo’s music program and customer profiles offer this. Yahoo also has a lot of success with their online gaming programs, most of which are free to use; this might also be a good area of expansion for Google. One problem area in Google’s expansion is a reaction to their recent product Google Desktop, which allows users to search their own computer for documents, similar to the Microsoft search product that comes with Windows. Some people have felt uncomfortable with this program, feeling that their privacy might be violated. However, it is not mandatory that Google users install and use this program, and though maybe not made known as well as it could be, search queries and results are not recorded by Google. In all, I do agree with Google’s strategy to expand its product mix to include additional services, as I believe it will be beneficial and necessary in order for Google to keep ahead of its competition. Marketing Implications The decision for Google to expand its product mix affects its other marketing activities in various ways. For most of its services, Google has relied on word of mouth and publicity for advertisement, which is not to say that it is not marketing itself. Google has marketed itself in a very subtle but affective way. They have positioned themselves as a search engine who “allows users to conduct swift and accurate searches across the World Wide Web in a matter of seconds”, and they have allowed their users to basically take over and define the company’s identity. If the company changes the product mix, they will have to change their positioning strategy, in that they will no longer be just a search engine but now they will be a search engine plus email server, online video host, map and driving direction provider, and whatever else they might choose to offer. They would likely continue to use word of mouth and publicity as their primary sources of

Google Case Study advertisement. In addition, (as they have done with the Google Toolbar) they would likely subtly advertise on their own website. Recommendations I believe that if Google does not expand its product mix to meet those of their direct competition, they will likely lose their foothold on the market. None of the major search engines are still only search engines, just as the more successful person-to-person

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file sharing programs (i.e., Kazaa, iTunes) started off only offering digital music and now offer movies, television shows, games, and more. The competition is fierce, and although most people agree that Google’s search capabilities are better than others are, I do not believe that it is enough to make a difference if all they have to offer is the search engine. In addition to catching up with Yahoo! in the games and music departments, Google is known for releasing new products that their competitors do not offer (i.e., Google Earth – satellite pictures of the planet, and aforementioned Google Desktop), and should therefore continue to do so, as it is obviously working for them now. Aside from product development, Google would likely benefit from becoming more interactive with their users to allow for a more personal connection. Let googlers be googlers in the truest sense of the word.

Google Case Study References

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Etzel, M. J., Walker, B. J., & Stanton, W. J. (2007). Marketing (14th ed.). McGraw-Hill/ Irwin: New York, NY (2007). Google Corporate Information: Company Overview. Retrieved 11 February 2007 from http://www.google.com/intl/en/corporate/index.html. Wipperfürth, A. (2005). Brand Hijack: Marketing Without Marketing. Penguin Group (USA) Inc.: New York, NY

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