It’s been a busy start to 2013 for our friends at Google. Sci-fi eyewear, a laptop that tries to give Apple a run for its money and with Shopping Express they appear to be training their sights (sites?) on Amazon next. That’s more than a little bit of scope creep for the company whose philosophy says “It’s best to do one thing really, really well,” and it’s part of Google’s ever-growing portfolio of product and service names.
Which makes us wonder, does it make sense for Google to have so many brands?
- Google has relatively independent acquired brands, like AdMob, Picasa and YouTube.
- It has masterbranded products—the ones that all use the Google brand prominently—like Google Apps, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Play, etc.
- And it has key brands such as: Gmail, AdWords, Chrome, Chromebook, Chromebook Pixel, Chromebox and now Glass (a particularly cool concept, right up there with flying cars in our books.)
It’s far from a simple brand architecture. But for Google it’s smart business. Why? Because the company has $48 billion in cash (a sum not substantial enough to elicit comment from Warren Buffett). That and the frenzy of media attention that follows Google’s every move are a pretty good platform for experimenting with even a googolplex of product and service brands as it continues to expand its business ever further beyond search.
The approach is not for the faint of heart. Deciding what kind of brand a product or service needs, and how that brand relates to an organization’s portfolio of other products and services is a strategic decision that requires serious attention. Launching and creating awareness for new brands requires human and financial resources whose ROI must be justified. Maximizing the value of sub-brands and key brands requires constant tactical effort and ongoing strategic recalibration.