Business Lessons from John Mayer and Google Buzz

What do John Mayer and Google Buzz product managers have in common?  They’re both having a rough couple of weeks.  In case you don’t follow both technology and celebrity gossip news, popular musician John Mayer made some controversial statements in a magazine interview about his ex-girlfriends and other folk that resulted in some heavy criticism.  During the same time frame, Google released Google Buzz, a new Gmail feature that allows users to share updates, photos and videos.  Initially, the default mode of this service automatically followed people users had exchanged email and chats with and made those visible to others, resulting in privacy concerns for some users and some heavy criticism. It struck me that there were some common themes between the two incidents and business lessons to be learned.  Not really but it’s my blog OK, and I always wanted to write a post about John Mayer and Google.  Indulge me here as I give you – Business Lessons from John Mayer and Google Buzz: Just because we love you doesn’t mean you have permission to be a tool. – Success changes things.  If you’re a celebrity rock star folks probably hang on your every word.  But just because people love you doesn’t mean you are incapable of putting your foot in your mouth if you aren’t careful.  Similarly, just because you are Google doesn’t mean that sometimes you won’t get it wrong.  Today’s happy customers will cut you some slack but you can’t stop doing the work to make them happy in the future. Trying new stuff in a controlled environment can save you embarrassment. – For...

The Google Superbowl Ad: Why Now?

Google launched their first ever major TV ad last night at the Superbowl and thinking about it I had a moment where I thought – “Oh dear, I’m watching the beginning of the end.” I’ve worked at tech companies that spent a fortune on TV ads and I have always been a skeptic.  Unless you are doing pretty sophisticated brand tracking to measure the changes in the perception of your brand, the effects of tactics like that are almost impossible to measure and even then, trying to connect those results back to a specific TV ad is impossible.  If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it as Drucker would say.  I always had the feeling in the big tech firms I’ve worked in that TV ads were run largely out of fear.  We did them because we had always done them and nobody had the guts to pull the plug on a tactic that nobody could be really sure did something or not.  I always assumed that if we were starting fresh, the TV ads would never have happened. Then Google does a TV ad.  At the Superbowl. Why?  Is it to reach some part of the population that’s never heard of them? Unlikely – this is the United States we’re talking about.  Was it to show off a new feature that maybe we hadn’t heard of?  Nope, the ad didn’t do that.  To launch a new product?  Nope again.  So what did the ad do? The ad, in a word, was sweet.  It was a love story.  It was designed to have you reaching for a tissue...

Android and Google and Branding

If you are a marketing person and you haven’t been following what Google is doing with Android, you should be because it’s fascinating stuff. Android is a mobile operating system that was developed by the company of the same name, acquired by Google, and is now an open source project developed by a The Open Handset Alliance, a multinational alliance of technology and mobile industry leaders including Google, Motorola, Samsung, Sprint, HTC and around 40 others.  The stated goal of the Alliance is to create “greater openness in the mobile ecosystem”, allowing the industry to “innovate more rapidly and respond better to consumers’ demands.” There are currently more than 20 different devices that run Android including the new flagship devices from Motorola and Samsung.  There is a Google-controlled Android Marketplace with over 10,000 applications that run on the OS.  Because the code is open source, handset manufacturers are free to extend it to support any hardware they like which means you can have phones with both touch screens and keyboards and screens with various resolutions.  Android also lets you have multiple applications running simultaneously (something Blackberries have done forever but iPhones cannot do).  On the surface, smart phones running Android offer compelling advantages over the iPhone and Blackberry where customers can get the best of both worlds in terms of a touch screen, a hard keyboard, a pile of interesting applications, a choice of carriers, etc. Oh but there are devilish details…… First of all, not all Android devices are created equal.  There are now 3 different releases of the OS installed on phones being sold today.  There are...

Google Chrome OS: Dissecting A Great Marketing Announcement

Last week I was having a heated discussion with another marketer about Google’s marketing and my position was that Google’s marketing hasn’t impressed me much.  And by marketing I mean the way they launch, message and position products.  The exception has been Google Chrome which I’ve written about before and I thought was a good launch.  My argument was that they didn’t do a great job of articulating the value of their products. Today the Chrome team has announced Google Chrome OS and I’m going to have to go back to my friend and eat crow because this is a fantastic piece of marketing. The blog post on the announcement can be seen here.  Go and read it.  This is textbook example of how to build momentum and mindshare in a market (while causing your key competitor considerable grief) with a product that isn’t going to see the light of day for a year and a half. Here’s how they do it: Establish credibility – In just 9 months they now have 30million regular users of Google Chrome.  This is the “we know what we are doing and now we are going to do something even better” part of the announcement. Tell us what it is – “Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks.” Read that again.  It doesn’t seem hard to come up with a one-liner that describes what your product is or does but almost nobody does it well. I’m at the first line of the second paragraph and I’m paying attention (see point 1) and I...

Product Launches: Cuil vs. Chrome

I’ve found that in general for a V1/Beta launch, teams are too focused on technology and not focused enough on customer pain points, user experience and the market. Why? Because by definition, they don’t have much customer experience yet! If you don’t have any pre-launch customer experience then what makes you think you know anything about the market?  If you don’t know anything about the market then why launch now?  Seriously.  The more user-feedback can be heard and acted on before the product is launched the more you can plan for how the market will react to your strengths and weaknesses. This might seem obvious but many entrepreneurs in particular still hold onto the belief that the “big bang” launch comes first and working with customers comes later. The second thing is to set customer expectations at a level where you can meet them.  Again, a bit of pre-launch customer work goes a long way to helping you understand what those expectations will be.  Sounds easy right? If it was, I wouldn’t see so many hated, over-hyped products out there struggling to survive. Let’s compare two recent product launch examples: Cuil vs. Google’s Chrome. Cuil is a well-funded startup staffed with ex-Googlers with a search engine that “searches more pages on the Web than anyone else-three times as many as Google and ten times as many as Microsoft.” A better search engine than Google! Who doesn’t want to give that a try? The launch was massive. Hundreds of articles were written about Cuil in the run up to the release date including the New York Times, even though no media (or anyone...