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Google brands its service in pixels

The search giant bets on the popularity of its services in India to push Pixel

Alnoor Peermohamed  |  Bengaluru 

Alnoor Peermohamed

Google Pixel (Photo: madeby.google.com) When Google launched Pixel in India, the fastest growing market for smartphones in the world, in October this year, it spared no expenses for its campaign. A big splash in leading national dailies with hoardings in high visibility zones in the metros and digital and television spots, the tech titan went all out to grab customer attention. But the high decibel campaign did not quite deliver what Google expected, for someone on the team got their facts in a twist. The ad showed Google Assistant responding to a user’s query about a flight to London – the United Airlines Flight 83 which it said departs from DEL (New Delhi) and reaches LHR (London Heathrow, United Kingdom). But United Airlines Flight 83 doesn’t actually fly to LHR; it goes to EWR (Newark Liberty International Airport) instead. Social media had a good laugh; Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma tweeted ‘OK Google, bad job of copyediting’ while some slammed it as a super-smart assistant being let down by humans. To its credit, Google was quick on its feet. It pulled the ad off and has since focused on its other popular apps, Google Search, Maps and photo sharing services. It had to do so, say industry sources, for India is an important market. It is growing at more than 20 per cent a year in terms of volume sales, compared to the global average of four per cent. No mobile phone maker can afford to ignore this and hence Pixel’s global campaign has been tweaked to reflect local tastes and preferences. It is aimed at converting the loyalty of millions towards Google’s services (search, mail, photo sharing and maps among others) into that for the big ticket Pixel priced between Rs 55,000-65,000. “While we are following the global approach and guidelines for the campaign, we have customised it for Indian audiences. Keeping the local consumer’s aspirations and preferences in mind, we are highlighting the Google Assistant and the Camera for India,” says Sapna Chadha, head of marketing, Google India. Be it Youtube, Google Maps or the popular Google Photos app, the brand enjoys ubiquity paralleled by few. And in India, all of these apps are mostly accessed by users on a mobile handset.

It was, therefore, no surprise that Google decided to leverage its natural advantage in a market where Samsung and Apple are also high decibel advertisers. The ads thus hinge on how easy it is to use Google services on its Pixel smartphone rather than the device itself. Samsung has the maximum share of the premium smartphone market in India currently (although the numbers may take a hit after the Note7 debacle) and Apple has been steadily increasing its presence too. Google is aiming for the same slice of the market and is keen to emphasise that its product bears the same simplicity of use as its apps do, hoping that consumers will make the connection and click buy. Experts punch holes in the argument, however. They say that Google is a word used interchangeably for the Internet in India (it has even made it to popular songs and poems) and in that sense, the brand has mass appeal. But the loyalty is towards the services Google offers, while Pixel is a premium product and consumers typically do not transfer their loyalty from one to the other. Besides Google powers, nine out of 10 mobile devices sold in the country, brands such as Xiaomi, Samsung and Micromax have the same licensed software and it will be tenuous to build brand differentiation merely on the strength of its services. Also, analysts say that historically devices have always been sold on features and not the services on offer. Some disagree.“The beauty here is also that these are services used ubiquitously, by anybody who uses literally any phone,” says brand consultant Harish Bijoor. “Marrying the ownership of the services with the ownership of the brand of the phone in your hand is possibly a very clever thing to do. At the end of the day the idea is to converge it all and not diverge it,” he adds. Google is not leaving anything to chance. However, the New York-based advertising firm Droga5 and Lowe Lintas are working on the campaign that also highlights the unlimited storage capacity for images on the device and the AI assistant. “We are also undertaking many on-ground activations across premium malls. These are high footfall areas where we will reach out to users and give them an experience of the device,” says Chadha. The Pixel is Google’s take on total user experience as we envision it, she says. The challenge is to get customers putting their money down for the same.

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First Published: Wed, December 21 2016. 22:35 IST
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