Why Is Google Unhappy About Getting “Verbed?”

google-team-time.jpgThe first recorded usage of “Google” used as a verb was on July 8, 1998, by Larry Page, who wrote on a mailing list: “Have fun and keep googling!”

“Google” was officially verbed in the Oxford English Dictionary on June 15, 2006 and to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in July, 2006.

I firmly believe that having the public utter your company name as a verb is like going to heaven without the inconvenience of dying. Getting “verbed” is the ultimate accomplishment for any brand – the marketer’s Shangri-la.

But Google doesn’t see it that way.  Its legal department isn’t happy about getting “verbed” probably because they’ve bought into the myth that a company risks losing its trademark when it becomes a common figure of speech.

As marketer, I have a completely different point-of-view. 

Getting verbed may put Google’s legal trademark at risk, but it undeniably has a positive impact on the company’s brand.  I always favor sacrificing one legal battle if it ultimately leads to winning the marketing war ;-)

One of the things I’m certain of is that when a brand gets verbed, its name becomes automatically (and indelibly) etched deep into our unconscious minds.  It’s true – from a legal perspective, the trademark of the company is diluted over time. 

But from a marketing perspective, a verbed brand tends to stay at the top of our minds forever.  This is the same Top Of Mind Awareness (TOMA) that national advertisers – like Google – work hard for and a pay a lot to acquire every year. 

Actually, Google’s legal department should be jumping for joy for getting verbed.  It’s an honor, not an insult.  Just think of the trillions of dollars (that’s trillion with a T) in free publicity the company will attract through sustainable, organic word-of-mouth marketing.

By getting verbed, Google joins the ranks of other world-recognized brands such as Xerox, Hoover, Kleenex, Phillips and Coke.  (Google’s TOMA Score is probably higher than the other five mega-brands combined!)

Verbed Brand Examples: Whenever I want to photocopy a document, I say, “I’m going to Xerox it.”  I have a British friend who says, “I’m going to Hoover the carpet,” which is verbed-speak for saying, “I’m going to clean the carpet.” 

Imagine:  Xerox is the verb interchangeable with paper copying (their brand) and Hoover is the verb for cleaning carpets (their brand).  I’m not saying “a” verb.  I’m saying “the” verb. 

If this marketing miracle ever happens to you in your lifetime, I hope you welcome it and embrace it!

And what about you?  How many times have you unconsciously asked for a Kleenex when you wanted tissue paper, or a Phillips screwdriver, when you wanted a 4-tip crosshead? 

It happens all the time to me.

Why Google Is A Verb: When I think of Google, I don’t think of a person, place or thing. The Google brand is not a noun, it’s a verb.  The company’s Market Cap of nearly $100 billion is derived because of what it does, not what it is.

Look, when you type-in Google.com into your browser, you don’t get much value.  In fact, their home page is remarkably simple and offers you less than 10 links to click which are:

Advanced Search, Preferences, Language Tools, Advertising Programs, Business Solutions, About Google, Make Google Your Homepage, Privacy.

But when you google (verbed) a keyword phrase or image or location or whatever, the value you get from the company is massive and unmatched by any other website on earth.

When I google my name – “Alex Mandossian” – I get over 125,000 results in just 0.21 seconds at the time of this post. Just about everything you’d want to know about me (and don’t want to know about me) appears in 1/5th of a second.  Amazing!

Google Options: As of today, Google offers 24 free search tools such as Book Search, Blog Search, Google Maps, Patent Search, Product Search and others; 14 free communication tools such as Google Calendar, Gmail, Orkut, YouTube, as well as free software tools.

As a marketer, teacher, father, brother, son, husband, friend, colleague (or any other role I live into during my day), I will typically google for stuff I’m looking for at least 70-150 times a day.

What To Do Now: Click here to see the complete list of Google products.  If you think you know what Google offers, think again!  I bet you never knew how many world-class services, products and tools Google offers you for free!

When your done checking out the Google Options page, please give me your comments in the Reply Box below.

Epilogue: I recently read a WebWatch article written by Will Sturgeon on August 14, 2006.  I’m still scratching my head after reading the opening paragraph:

“Internet search giant Google has said it intends to crack down on the use of its brand name as a generic verb, saying phrases such as ‘to google’ somebody or something are potentially damaging to its brand.”

Will Sturgeon goes on to report:

A spokeswoman for Google said: “We think it’s important to make the distinction between using the word Google to describe using Google to search the internet and using the word Google to generally describe searching the internet. It has some serious trademark issues.”

I’m scratching my head because I’m wondering how the management of one of the world’s most valuable companies can confuse their company’s trademark with their company’s brand.  The two concepts are not interchangeable.

“The map is not the territory.”  That’s what Polish-American philosopher Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950) said when asked about the difference between content (“map”) and context (“territory”). 

The same is true with trademarks and bands.  For Google, or any other world-class company, a trademark is like a map and worth protecting, but not at the expense of owning the territory (brand).

Tell me what you think in the Reply Box below.

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