Lorraine Twohill, Chief Marketing Officer, Google

We believe there is a shift from organization-led brands to brand-led organizations where the business is the commercial manifestation of a powerful brand. Do you recognize this shift? What are the challenges and opportunities in it?

If an organization and the brand are not one and the same, then it’s not a real brand. At its most reductive, a brand is a promise. To keep that promise, everything you say and do – from the products you launch, to the ads you put in the world, to the culture you foster on your team – needs to live up to it. In this day and age, you can’t fake a brand. You will be found out instantly and people will either love you or tear you apart!

At Google, our mission has always been to make information accessible and useful, just as much today as it was when we started. 24 years on, that mission is so deeply ingrained into our products, our identity and our actions, and our brand is the sum of all those parts. 

In this day and age, you can’t fake a brand. You will be found out instantly and people will either love you or tear you apart!”

Our Best Global Brands data suggests that brands who not only provide superb experiences but also take a leading stance on social issues are more relevant to consumers. How are you approaching this in your organization?

Google has always been a purpose driven company – we want to build a more helpful Google for everyone. That means leaving no one behind, and being helpful to communities and society where we can add real value, in ways that are authentic to who we are.  

One of the biggest ways we do that is by providing authoritative information when it matters most, like helping people find the nearest vaccine during COVID so they can get back to what they love, or helping them find trusted information during elections. The same is true in times of crisis. I was incredibly proud of the Ukraine Peace Prize awarded to Google by President Zelensky for efforts to help people and businesses find the information they need to stay safe and move forward.  

Of course climate change is our most shared crisis, and we’ve taken a strong stance as a company by committing to be carbon-free by 2030, and building tools that help billions of people make more sustainable choices every day. At our recent Search On event, we announced new features to help people take the more eco-friendly route on Google Maps, or to shop for pre-owned items on Search.   

Our company Racial Equity commitments include building inclusive products, and working to make technology more accessible and equitable. As a brand who helps billions of people globally every day, we have a tremendous responsibility to strive for representation in the work that my team puts out in the world. That’s why last year we made All In, our Inclusive Marketing toolkit, open and available for the whole creative industry. The toolkit captures the lessons and insights that helped us get better at creating work that truly resonates in the multicultural world we live in, like representing our inclusive camera, Real Tone, at the Super Bowl, celebrating the CODA community at the Oscars, and launching Black, Latin, Asian and LGBT-owned badges on Google Maps.

Why, in a recession, should a business continue to invest in their brand? How do you think the investment in brand and marketing will evolve or change over the next 12 – 18 months?

When times get tough, marketing budgets are often impacted, but tough times are actually when marketing can be critically important to the business in continuing to hit our goals. Times of uncertainty can also bring opportunity, so it’s a question of making sure that we are investing in the right areas, using our budget and resources wisely, and sharpening our focus. Scarcity breeds clarity, and the exercise of taking a critical look at everything we are doing can be enormously helpful. Are there campaigns we can streamline into fewer, bigger, better efforts? How can we simplify our messages and increase our impact? 

A critical part of this exercise is being able to prove the impact of our investments, and the value of marketing overall. Rigorous and comprehensive measurement is one of our greatest ongoing challenges and opportunities.  

Lastly, times of uncertainty are when our users need us most, so it’s important that we double down on efforts to help businesses through bumps in the road, to help job seekers continue to grow their skills, and to help developers and creators find success on our platforms. For example, we recently published Tried-and-New advice for advertisers to help them make smart decisions amid macroeconomic uncertainty.  

How has your competition evolved over the past 24 months? Where are you seeing or experiencing the greatest threats? What are the biggest opportunities? Are you seeing new or surprising competitors entering the space?

There are always so many new and exciting options for consumers, so we always feel a healthy sense of competition. And some of our biggest bets are in very competitive spaces. Just recently we just launched our Pixel 7 phone and first-ever Google Pixel Watch, big steps for us in a space with a lot of consumer choice.  

We also take inspiration from a new generation of users. We think a lot about how we can bring them products they love, from YouTube Shorts to Google Lens, and how we can create work that speaks to them. We recently launched our Find that Thing campaign for Search, which shows how to use your camera to search for what you see around you. We wanted the campaign to be fresh and fun, and unmistakably Gen Z, and we heard in creative testing that it felt like we were bringing Google into their world. We also adapted our media and creative to meet them where they are, knowing that the same piece of creative won’t work equally well across YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.  

We also take inspiration from a new generation of users. We think a lot about how we can bring them products they love, from YouTube Shorts to Google Lens, and how we can create work that speaks to them.”

We have come to recognize brands as being powerful acts of leadership. In what ways do your brand’s moves reflect you/your organization’s belief system?

Core to our DNA is our commitment to “significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible.” That relentless focus has paved the way to many billion user products, like Search, YouTube, Gmail, Docs, and Photos. But we also want to make sure that in serving the many, we don’t lose sight of serving the few.  

Making sure we don’t leave anyone behind has led to product innovation like Guided Frame, which makes selfies easier for the vision impaired, and Google Translate, which continues to add indigenous languages and dialects to support speakers that have historically been excluded. It also leads to programs like Google Career Certificates, which has helped give 9 million people in the US a path to in-demand jobs, and Black & Latino Founders Funds, which gives entrepreneurs the tools and support they need to succeed. And it means we dig into insights to uncover truth and tell powerful stories, like in our Most Searched campaign that celebrates the Black Americans that have transformed our history and culture.