Irishwoman in the engine room of Google's marketing mix
“Tiny magic little moments of usefulness”, being “consumery” and not letting yourself become middle-aged is the secret to Google’s marketing success, according to the internet giant’s Irish vice-president in global marketing, Lorraine Twohill. Oh, and being careful with brand properties such as its much-monitored home page.
“If I do anything to the home page, I get such a huge reaction it’s ridiculous,” Twohill, from Co Carlow, told the Marketing Institute’s Brand Ireland conference in Dublin yesterday. “So we have to be cautious about what we do.”
The Google Doodle team seeks her approval for St Patrick’s Day home page doodles, she said. “I always get the leprechauns out of them.”
The stakes are high. With 100 billion searches every month, “if we screw up, we screw up big”, the former Irish tourism marketer said. “I don’t want to be the person who screws up the Google brand.”
Twohill, who joined Google in 2003 and is now based at its headquarters in Mountain View, California, describes “a big part” of her job as “taking the technology and making it personal”. This means overseeing the creation of television advertisements such as Parisian Love, which showed all the means by which Google’s search tool could foster a relationship from long-distance flirtation to the purchase of a crib.
After emerging the winner from a test-bed of 12 similar search-supported “stories” placed on YouTube, Parisian Love ran in a prime Superbowl slot in 2010, “in between the beer ads”.
It is important to be professionally in touch with the power of emotions, even if your colleagues might not be, she hinted. “When you work in a tech company, talking about feelings is an interesting conversation with engineers.”
The marketing of web browser Chrome was a bigger challenge. “No one gets up in the morning and says I need a new browser today,” Twohill noted. In the end, the browser’s Dear Sophie advertisement prompted headlines claiming “Google has a marketing mix that makes grown men cry”. Last year’s Chrome advertisement, meanwhile, elicited the help of Lady Gaga’s fan base, aka her Little Monsters.
In a Chromebook campaign, For Everyone, Google simply plundered its own resources, creating a television ad out of YouTube clips, while a Google Docs campaign that might have had a business-to-business feel was rendered “consumery” on Twohill’s instruction. “We have a consumer brand and we have a business brand and they should feel the same,” she said.
Projects such as the digitisation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the archives of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, meanwhile, are designed to secure a “legacy” for Google’s corporate brand.