in Business & Marketing, Digital & Tech

What does Google’s expansion into hardware mean for marketers

Google has traditionally been a software company with the ability to collect and extract the value from data. It started with a simple search engine, which was designed to crawl, index and organize the data on the web and make it accessible to anyone who performed a search. The beauty about this model is that it allowed Google to get other people to ask them questions and tell them what they were looking for at any given moment.

I often say that marketing is about turning needs into wants. For this we tell stories and build relationships which manifest into popular brands if the products and stories are good. Google managed to build the holly grail of marketing: ask people what they want and give it to them. They put up a search bar with the world’s information behind it and empowered us through technology to tell Google what we wanted.

Give people what they want and they will come back for more.

This defined Google 1.0. A search engine that collected and organized the world’s information and made it university accessible and useful – which is Google mission by the way.

We are now starting to experience Google 2.0 – an AI first Google.

For those of you that are unclear about Artificial Intelligence (AI) – it is simply software that has the ability to “learn” through what we term machine learning (ML), and extract the value from data through pattern recognition.

Google has always been building an AI. From day 1. That “I’m feeling lucky” button they still have under the search bar is their audacious statement which says that one day, we will get it right on the first go.

As the former CEO Eric Schmidt once said over a decade ago:

Google’s still pretty dumb – we serve up 10 bugs every time someone asks a question. We still can’t get it right in one go, one answer, the right answer.

This says a lot. It says that one day they want to get it right. And they are well on their way. The Google assistant is a more advanced manifestation of the older 1.0 version of the Google search engine – a destination people surf to through a browser to perform a search.

Google 2.0 will be a lot smarter. It will come in the form of a personalized virtual assistant called the Google assistant – and it will understand a lot more about you and will anticipate your needs and even wants. It will be there to help answer your questions, anytime, from any device (hint: the hardware),  even through a simple conversation.

And Google is building a personal Google for every person in the planet.

But an AI is nothing without data. AI needs data to feed on in order to extract value. But what value are we really talking about here?

The answer is simple: It’s the value in understanding people and relationships in order to service these relationships. To understand people at a personal level and give them what they need and want – do that – and you build strong lasting relationships.

Unlike in the off-line world, where we can use our senses to understand relationships, in a digital world, these relationships need to be understood through the data they generate.

We facilitate the development of relationships through digital channels via our ability to connect through the technology tools made available to us.

This Internet (which is disappearing) is now termed the Internet of Things (IoT) where billions of things (smartphones, devices, sensors…etc) are connected and in relationships with each other and with humans. The terminology even goes a step further when both humans and machines are ubiquitously connected to the digital world for which we term “the Internet of Everything” (IoE).

Why did I say it’s “disappearing”? Because it is becoming ubiquitous – everywhere. We no longer need to dial into it or physically connect to it. We are becoming perpetually connected. It is becoming abundant, like water and electricity. It is becoming an always on resource. That’s what technology does to things – it turns scarcity into abundance.

Here is the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt saying the Internet is disappearing:

So… coming back to the original question this article is trying to address:

What does Google’s expansion into hardware mean for marketers?

The simple answer: it gives Google the ability to build and understand more relationships. They build and understand relationships with data that is generated when we engage with technology in the form of software (a search engine, a virtual assistant, the android OS, Gmail, Google drive…etc), and hardware (the new pixel phone, the new Google Home, Nest, chrome Books, Google WiFi, DayDream VR headsets…etc).

By offering (and even owning) both the software and the hardware for us to “play with” and use to live our lives, Google is able to have an increasing amount of what we marketer’s refer to as “touch points”. This helps google access our behavioral data and understand the 1000’s of relationships we nurture every day with Google, other brands, devices like our smartphones, and each other.

It’s all about the data that is generated when we engage with and through technology in the form of software and hardware. Every time we use these (often free) tools, we “pay” by giving up a part of our privacy in the form of data to the companies that empower us through these platforms, which are made from software and accessed through hardware.

I am sure you know what I am talking about here: Google, Amazon, Facebook … they all profit from extracting the value from data they have on people’s behavior in order to serve advertising and getting us to buy stuff.

So what does it mean for Google, technology partners and for marketers? It means we can better understand relationships we are having with people and in turn can serve more relevant advertising that has the ability to perform at a higher level and generate more controlled, predictable and enhanced outcomes. It’s helps us build meaningful connections through digital channels.

Through the adoption of technology and ubiquitous connection to the Internet, we are producing more and more data on people’s behavior. The rising abundance of artificially intelligent software (AI), cloud, storage, computation and connection is driving this digital revolution and it’s going to get a lot bigger and more prominent in our lives.

It’s going to absorb us over the coming decades and raise a lot of new societal, social, political and economic issues we will have to deal with. Digital ethics, privacy and security are going to become top political agenda items.

The game has just began. It’s a game that is in its infancy. It’s a turning point in humanity. It’s the rise of the machines and the second machine age: our ability to enhance our cognitive power through machines.

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