As Google continues to expand its efforts in search, display, video and mobile, and address consumers across digital marketing channels, the company has obvious aspirations to become a more holistic solution for marketers.
The seeds of Google's marketing – not just advertising – plans could be linked even to the name of its platform: the DoubleClick Digital Marketing (DDM) platform. But can it reach across the enterprise effectively on behalf of the marketer?
We polled several industry executives and analysts with the following question:
"What does Google need to do to become an enterprise software marketing company?"
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- Rob Brosnan, SVP for Strategy, StrongView
- Josh McFarland, CEO, TellApart
- Ray Wang, analyst, Constellation Research
- Mary Wardley, program VP, CRM and enterprise applications, IDC
It's hard to imagine a viable path for Google to being an enterprise marketing software company. To tempt Google into enterprise marketing tech, this technology category would have to drive at least one of Google's objectives: 1) increasing Google's store of individual consumer data that it can use for itself; and 2) driving up the number of interactions that Google can sell ads against.
Google Analytics did manage to accomplish both. Because Google freely gave away a "good enough" service that Omniture and Coremetrics charged large sums for, marketers freely shared data with Google. And that data helped Google both improve its search results and prove to marketers that its search and display ads generated meaningful revenue. We don't have insight into what Google invested to create Google Analytics, but the service likely paid for itself many times over.
So with Google Analytics as a precedent, why wouldn't Google jump into enterprise software? Even with the growth of software-as-a-service marketing tech providers, few enterprises are ready to or are even legally able to let Google use their vast customer databases for its own purposes. Even if firms did agree to allow Google to use that data, would it really drive Google's ad sales? Google already owns much of the online ad portion of marketers' digital budgets. The remainder is divided between direct media (email, direct mail, Web pages, etc.) and technologies used to support direct marketing (campaign management, analytics, databases, etc.). Neither would help advance Google's mission of organizing – and profiting from – the world's information.
During my tenure at Google, I remember Tim Armstrong proselytizing a vision he called the "CMO Dashboard" – the one place into which all marketing information would flow, and out of which would come the ROI-optimized decisions for everything from marketing mix to actual messages and execution through any channel. I believe his vision was spot on – but Google is about as far along the path to that vision today as they were when I left in 2008. To me, this suggests they don't actually intend to become an enterprise-grade marketing software company.
Through the lens of revenue generation, Google is a media company, and the few marketing products they offer at the enterprise level (DFP, the new DDM, GA Premium) are intrinsically tied to the maximization/optimization of dollars flowing to Google-owned/brokered media. Because Google owns its black boxes of optimization, it is inherently advantaged in search and display. Yes, DBM will soon play nicely with FBX, but will they broaden to include email marketing, Marketo-style automation, Twitter, SMS/app alerts, etc.? Not in the future I foresee right now. There’s easier money to be made tilting at the brand windmills currently powered by huge TV dollars.
Google often talks a good game about Google-sized ambitions to play in the enterprise software marketing space – from the hiring of ex-Oracle executive Amit Singh on Google Enterprise to the acquisition of Wildfire Interactive on the social advertising side. These steps often bring lots of excitement and then after some time peter away. Google often sees itself as a consumer play with the ability to build out an enterprise offering. However, Google needs more than just an understanding of the scale and complexity of the enterprise marketing space. In fact, the challenge for Google is culture.
Enterprise software requires committed developers who work on projects over years and decades, not months and years. Marketing technology needs folk who've rolled up their sleeves in the industry, not academics and computer science jocks who live in a theoretical world. The reality: Google doesn't have the right mix of people. They certainly have the brain power. They certainly can code. They certainly have the money. But when Google starts bringing industry folks into Google, then we'll know they are serious. For now, they're just playing with our aspirations that Google will be a player.
The biggest thing they have to do is figure out how to truly reassure everyone that there is a separation between church and state in terms of data for customer privacy, risk and compliance. It could get ugly.
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