Google’s acquisition of Motorola’s Mobile business raises a number of fundamental brand questions and is sure to be a topic of much discussion this week. Some of the critical brand-oriented questions for Google, and for Motorola, are as follows:
What business is Google in?
Most people still think of Google as a Search company largely due to its consistent domination over Yahoo! and Microsoft. Others think of Google as a technology enabled advertising company, since something like 97% of the company’s revenues come through paid search and display ads, and also considering that most of its myriad of free services are advertising supported. But then there is Android, the smart phone OS that has been growing by leaps and bounds. Google now adds the handset vendor to its core competitive set of Microsoft, Apple and Facebook, making their business focus hard to pin down.
If you look at Google’s original mission: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, it seems like Android, and now Motorola are somehow tangential to that mission. Accessibility and usability, in terms of a presence on every mobile device available, seems to be taking priority over organization, or is it?
How do these brands interrelate?
A big question on everyone’s mind will be what happens to the Motorola brand on smart phones and tablets. Will they all get “Googled?” What about the heritage, history and midwestern work ethic of company based in Libertyville Ill, vs. the kinetic energy and opportunistic drive that emanates from Mountain View? How tightly or loosely will these companies be integrated?
And how about Android’s dramatic rise in customer adoption, based largely on its openness and hardware neutrality? One very good reason to keep the Motorola Brand separate would be to maintain that neutral position for Android. To indicate that this was a clear priority, Larry Page today posted a list of supportive messages from Android hardware partners on his Google+ page.
Was this a brand buy or a patent buy?
Much has been made about the patent wars being fought in the mobile space, and in fact Google has claimed that Apple and Microsoft have been cooperating to keep the Android OS on the defensive by aggressively pursuing patent lawsuits. Google today used that exact example this to explain the reasons behind its Motorola investment. Larry Page himself said the following:
“Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”
There is no doubt Google will seek to combine their OS-oriented mindset to Motorola’s hardware expertise, much like Apple did with the iPhone. The big difference, of course is that Apple has always been a hardware and software specialist, an expert in integrating the yin and the yang to deliver the premium customer experience that drives the Apple Brand. Can Google do the same with its brand? With both brands? We foresee a number of interesting discussions and questions on this subject for many months to come.