In late 2000 I sat down with Tim Armstrong, who at the time was head of East Coast sales at Google. As head of strategy at the time at Verticalnet, I had been tasked by short-tenured CEO Joe Galli with working through a strategic relationship with Google. These were the days before Adwords or a Google revenue model or an IPO, but it was the period where the act of “Googling” had recently become synonymous with “searching”. I remember Tim telling me that at the time Google spent less that $25k per year on marketing and that all of their awareness and traction was viral. Ultimately, Google and their ad words became the marketing engine that no "new economy" head of marketing could do without.
Recently I saw a new higher touch Google marketing approach. A slick white "Apple-like" box with Google subtly embossed on the cover was shipped to a VP of Marketing. Inside was a classy computer sleeve and a very formal invitation and offer. “Agree to have a meeting to discuss your advertising needs and we will bring a brand new Chromebook to the meeting to fill the sleeve we just sent you.”
And it worked. The meeting happened and the Chromebook was delivered.
So Google – one of the most sophisticated companies in the world and the foremost source of lead generation solutions had tossed aside the new-economy marketing playbook for a very old-economy campaign. Is this a bad thing? Is this back to the future?
My takeaway from this is that Google continues to prove what a smart company it is. Just because there are many new marketing plays in the playbook, it doesn’t mean the old plays are dead. How do you cut through the noise of thousands of emails a week that reach a CMO and get a meeting? How about sending them mail (snail mail, not email, which does in fact still exist) or better yet – a package. The funny thing is, when you talk to executives they often remark on how little real mail they get and how they now actually read most of it because it is so rare. Clearly Google recognized the opportunity this presented.
Maybe marketers need to put high touch strategies back on the list of activities to try and see where the ROI stacks up with other approaches. For some companies, it may make a big difference. And that may be the real “new-economy” lesson Google continues to teach; almost any idea, even one that might seem outdated, is worth testing to measure the ROI and expanding if the data is compelling.