Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Has Google Met Its Match?

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Has Google Met Its Match?

Article excerpt

The arrival of Microsoft's Bing could lead to Google's perceived superiority being questioned.

Despite all the bling that has been spent on Bing, few people are giving Microsoft's new search engine much chance of stealing away even a fraction of Google's dominant market share. That makes sense when you consider the strength of Google's brand - the term 'Google' has become the verb for undertaking an online search. The brand, we are reliably told, is now the world's most valuable, with an equity of more than dollars 1bn.

Google enjoys a near 90% share of the UK search market thanks to a loyal user base which returns to it time and again for their online information. Despite this dominance, you can see why Microsoft thinks it has a chance with Bing. For all its current loyalty and brand equity, Google does have an Achilles heel and it could prove relatively easy to erode that loyalty and grab share. Let me explain.

One of the most over-used phrases in the marketing lexicon is 'brand loyalty'. There are many reasons for a return purchase, and only a few of them relate to a consumer's relationship with the brand.

Take all the pompous marketers from banks and mobile-phone networks that seem to dominate the rosters of most marketing conferences. Almost all of them mistake a consumer who is locked into their brand through significant switching costs with one who is enraptured by the brand and therefore unlikely to stray.

Switching costs are the painful, time-consuming steps required to change brands when you are unhappy with the service you are receiving. These costs usually account for a far higher proportion of repeat purchases than the higher-level, stronger brand loyalty for which they are often mistaken. It is like asking your parents on their silver wedding anniversary for the secret of their long and happy marriage and being told that a divorce would have been too messy. It is loyalty, of a sort; but not the best or strongest kind.

Which brings me back to Google. The reason we visit the site is because we believe it to be the fastest and finest search engine on the planet That's a wonderful position of perceived superiority, but hardly the high-level symbolic brand associations that typify most strong brands While it might be possible to make a better cola than Coke, no one is worried about this in Atlanta, because it would be impossible to be more Coca-Cola than Coca-Cola. The brand has an unassailable symbolic advantage. …

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