The Google way to build businesses

Google is the most valuable brand in the world, according to the latest BrandZ index. So you would expect its most senior marketer to be one of the most prominent faces in the global marketing industry.

Yet Lorraine Twohill, senior vice-president of marketing at Google, has a lower profile than you would perhaps expect for the top marketer at the biggest brand on earth. Especially for someone with a sales and marketing budget worth around £4.6bn in 2013.

But this is because Twohill is a thinker who likes to let her brand do the talking. We speak to her in our cover story this week. I’ve picked three themes from her elegant philosophy of building brands that apply across the board to organisations.

  • Never ever act like you’re the market leader.

When you’ve got £38bn in annual revenues and you are seen as the most powerful digital brand on the planet, it would be easy to consider yourself the market leader. But Twohill takes the opposite attitude, seeing the brand as “cutting its teeth” or undergoing “a steep learning curve”.

By always thinking of the business as small and agile, it gives Google the freedom to experiment and move into new areas. This also stops the business being too afraid to try new things because it is now an enormous corporate. “I still feel like we’re kids at the adults’ table in some ways,” she says of the Google brand moving into new areas, such as appearing in physical retail environments.

  • Use your ‘brand bank account’ when things get tough

Although Google has faced criticism in recent years over its diversity and dominant market position, Twohill talks about the value of the ‘brand bank account’ for businesses.

“It’s resilient because we’ve deposited a lot in that brand bank account over the years,” she says. “For any brand when you hit bumpy patches, if you’ve really invested in the brand and in the relationship over the years you can weather those times.”

It’s a key point. The brand is not merely a revenue or profit generation tool. It is also an investment in consumer understanding and forgiveness when things go wrong.

  • Never be satisfied

If there is any company that is experimenting heavily with bridging the online and physical worlds, it is Google. Yet Twohill remains hungry for more.

“My dream is to have a cockpit where I can access all the great creative and stories I want to tell and put them seamlessly and automatically onto every screen,” she comments. But surely Google is leading the way in this area? Twohill still has more to do, saying: “We’re nowhere near at the moment.”

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