Don’t Take Our Word for It – Take Google’s

Maybe you’ve seen the TV ad. Maybe you haven’t. Regardless, every time I see the GM commercial asking viewers to “Google Pontiac” I become more fascinated by its implications.

The exact ad wording is, “Don’t take our word for it. Google Pontiac and discover for yourself.” It’s simple. It’s direct. It’s, dare I say, genius. Why has no one else done this? (Forgive me if another company has; I haven’t seen it.)

Simply put – I’m betting no other company to date has been willing to make this marketing leap. Why tell an audience to go to Google first, instead of just giving out the company’s online address? I see two reasons. Credibility. Usability.

First, credibility. As Max Kalehoff points out in a recent article, “GM’s campaign implies tremendous authority and trust in the Google brand. It’s almost as if Google is moving into the territory of J.D. Power & Associates as the ubiquitous barometer of customer satisfaction.”

Google is an internationally recognized name brand. As the leader of the search engine pack, people have taught themselves to trust Google as a source for qualified information. Therefore, GM seems to be saying, “See, Google trusts us. There’s our Pontiac website right there at the top of Google’s search results. It’s even listed there twice (Adword). So if Google trusts us, you should trust us too.”

Second, usability. I don’t have the data to back it up, but I’m guessing there are literally millions of people who have set Google.com as their browser’s homepage. A company that advertises their website is relying on viewers to remember that online address. But no matter how simple the URL, it’s easily forgotten in the muddled memory stream of “Things I Saw on TV Last Night”. By herding viewers to Google first, people only have to turn on the computer, open their browser to Google, and type the company name into the search box. And a company name or buzzword is almost always easier to remember than a URL.

Back to the ad itself. There’s one very important visual that makes the ad click in viewers’ minds. A 3-4 second screen shot of Google with the word “Pontiac” typed into the search field. Think about it. The advertiser, General Motors, is putting up a screen shot of someone else’s website, Google’s, on national television. That screen shot alone may pause the fast-forwarding-through-ads on more than a few Tivo machines.

As Tessa Wegert points out, telling potential customers to visit a third-party for more information, certainly comes with risks. But doesn’t taking risks sometimes lead to great rewards? I only wonder if GM’s ad firm spelled out these risks to their client. If so, I have more respect for GM. But still not enough to give up my Toyota.