Having a name that evokes a clear image of a product or service in the consumer’s brain is the end goal of every marketer. When you say the word “Google” to most people, they immediately think of an internet search engine. The word “Googled” has become a verb in the English language. As a marketer, you just can’t do any better than that and you deserve your special place in the Marketing Hall of Fame (wherever that is.)
Today, however, the name Google is starting to become a bit murky. Instead of a search engine, computer people are thinking of the word Google as the name of a large tech company that has a search engine, creates operating systems for Android phones and tablets, offers a free web brouser, Chrome, owns other large web companies such as Youtube and soon, perhaps, Hulu, and now as a Social Media service called Google+.
Increasingly, the term Google refers to a company, and not a search engine. This is a major marketing mistake called “line extension.”
Think Coca Cola, or Coke. Once, that meant just one thing. Today, there are six or seven different products that use that general brand name, from old sugar based regular Coke to Diet Coke, Coke Zero, etc. Or, maybe we’re talking about the giant company that owns Minute Maid, Dasani water,etc.
Microsoft once called their search engine MSN, which, in a way, incorporated their name, often abbreviated as MS. It was a flop. By changing the name to “Bing,” they can now clearly create a unique marketing identity for their search engine. Nothing else is called Bing, just Bing. Ask people what Bing is, and they’ll tell you that it’s the other search engine, the one they might use if they can’t find what they’re looking for on Google. OK, not great, but it is an identity, and it does have a lot more users than MSN did.
And as the Google name starts to lose it’s focus and becomes the name of a large computer company and not a search engine, the real winner might just be Bing.