It is widely known that Google has been experimenting with driverless car technology for a number of years, initially focusing on retro-fitting existing vehicles. However, the company’s recent announcement that it is now manufacturing its own driverless cars is a marketing masterstroke.
Years ago, during some brand development training that we undertook with the excellent Peter Finch, we did some interesting brand stretching exercises (as an aside, Peter was so good that we got him to author a Johnson King white paper on branding). Brand stretching entails taking a well-known brand and applying its brand values and attributes to a new area of business. For example, if McDonald’s were to move into the mobile phone market what would its offer be; or how would Aston Martin tackle the cosmetics industry?
Coincidentally, one of the brand stretching exercises we were given during the training centred on Google and we were tasked with defining the characteristics of a Google Hotel and it was fun to do.
Google is one of the biggest brands in the world and its brand values centre on simplicity, ease of use, fast response, fun and innovation. Perfect attributes for a driverless car, making this latest move a perfect stretch for the Google brand. Recent news coverage about its driverless car has reinforced the company’s brand even further. Regardless of whether it ever becomes a commercial reality, the Google brand has gained tremendously from this move.
I only hope it doesn’t go horribly wrong, after all the IT industry doesn’t have the greatest track record in product reliability. At a COMDEX trade show in the distant past, Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the automotive industry saying "if General Motors had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon."
General Motors response was simply "Yes, but would you want your car to crash twice a day?"
Let’s hope Google has the technical prowess to back its undoubted marketing muscle.