Google Open Day July 27, 2007Posted by fukumimi in Internet, Japan.
Yesterday I went down to Google Japan’s HQ in Shibuya for their Open Day (open evening. whatever).
To be perfectly honest, the whole thing was a bit of a disappointment. For anyone who follows GOOG, there really was nothing new. The talks lacked spontaneity, and came across as carefully scripted.
It seems pretty much the same pitch (or portions thereof) as was given to Businessweek for their fluff piece, and I have to admit I had the same impression of the pitch as Valleywag. Repeating “we are really humble” like a mantra isn’t going to convince anyone who can think for themselves.
Last night, some apparently important marketing guy (I think he was they guy introduced as being “one of the busiest guys at GOOG”, and they even shared his recent travel schedule with us. Are we meant to be in awe of some guy because he racks up the air miles? Or grateful that he has found time in his ultra-busy schedule to speak us?) from HQ just decided to read from slides. I found that to be borderline offensive. I think most of us can actually read. Does GOOG really want people who made an effort to turn up to the event to feel that their guys can’t be bothered to make an effort for the audience?
There was minimal discussion of what GOOG is trying to do specifically in the local market. They made a point up front about how they have more than half the world’s market share in search. Conveniently they neglected to mention that in Japan, they are lagging. They are making ground quickly, granted. If the company was really humble, they’d specifically acknowledge their position in the local market. And whilst there was a push in the presentation to drive home the point that users begetting users, and this being increasingly important to drive growth (viral marketing, network effects, etc etc), the marketing pitch lacked a genuine attempt at outreach.
Facta non verba.
Even more disappointing than the fluffy presentations were the questions from the floor. The first guy up introduced himself as a marcom guy from MSFT who, in what I though was a fairly aggressive/pointed manner for a guest, asked something along the lines of “what do you (GOOG) think is the best marcom strategy?”. Which was answered (or not) with some typical fluff response which was equally unnoteworthy. And it pretty much went downhill from there. I think the questions asked showed GOOG that the people asking the questions were not GOOG material, so I guess the event served some purpose (maybe not for marcom, but rather for HR…). It also felt like some of the Googlers were getting a little bit defensive at some of the questions. Maybe they expected a load of fanboys who would gush praise and give them an ego boost. What they actually got were people who were either agnostic or even antagonistic. I guess the silent majority may have been fanboys, difficult to tell. There was a pretty edgy vibe in the room, I thought.
It was almost as if the Googlers couldn’t understand why the audience weren’t lapping up the kool-aid.
If they are as good at “innovating” and “learning from mistakes” as they claim to be, their humility should allow them to acknowledge that they have a huge amount of work to do in the marcom area in Japan, and they’ll learn from last night. Just plying guests with free food and booze does not guarantee a friendly audience. (It does increase the likelihood of people dozing off during the talks, however….)
The several people I have had the pleasure to meet from GOOG (both Mountain View and in Japan) in the past have been bright, amicable guys, and their affiliations with GOOG reflected well on the company. To be honest I’m not sure I could say the same for everyone who was representing GOOG last night. There were some decent performers there, for sure, but also some stuff which was distinctly average. Average results really aren’t good enough if you claim to only hire the best and brightest.
One thing that did come across was the joyful glow of the local Googlers. These people certainly seem happy at working at GOOG. It certainly is a big difference from the typical Japanese corporate environment.
Perhaps I’ve been a bit harsh on GOOG in this post as I find many of these type of events rather lacking, being immersed in the bleeding edge of this sector, day in, day out. Still, if you talk the talk, you have to expect people to look very closely at your claims. They have a huge pool of engineering talent to draw upon, and I sincerely wish them all the best in delivering new solutions to us. That is the surest way to win the hearts of the user base.
[To the Google marcom/PR team’s credit, they seem to have done a good job at winning the hearts of the local press, who certainly come across as fanboys and report each minor Google related news item with fervour. It certainly is a relatively cheap and extremely effective way to gain exposure, especially in Japan where journalism appears to be a concept alien to much of the media]
Facta non verba.