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Goafest 2009: Google may have become a victim of its own success, says Shailesh Rao

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Goa | In Advertising | April 03, 2009
Rao of Google spoke on how the popular search engine can help build brands, instead of merely generating leads for advertisers. He also touched upon how digital as a medium can prove to be a blessing for marketers

Though every sector is witnessing the effects of the economic slowdown, one media arena that isn't complaining too much is the digital medium. The economic situation may well be the answer to its prayers, when it comes to roping in advertisers.

Shailesh Rao, MD, sales and operations, Google India, spoke at the Goafest 2009 Conclave on 'The Digital Edge', proclaiming that as opposed to other media, which took rather long to capture a significant market audience in India, the internet has managed to rope in 50 million users in a span of four years.

Rao went on to speak of Google as a brand. "Google has, in a way, become a victim of its own success," he mused, as the popular search engine has, over time, been slotted for successful lead generation and a sales/ROI driver by advertisers.

& #BANNER1 & #"But it can actually help build brands as well," Rao stated, explaining that advertisers who run ads on search engines, in addition to investing in search marketing, benefit much more, especially with reference to branding, than those simply relying on search to do the trick.

Next, he stated that in an environment when products are proliferating, media is exploding and consumers are being bombarded constantly with messages, the consumer is no longer king. "She is God," Rao stated. "It's all about listening to what consumers want and creating value; and the Apple iPod is a perfect example of that," he added.

With the economic slowdown, the consumers' reaction presently is that of cocooning - retreating into a shell and postponing purchases. "People want the control back in their lives, and brands ought to, now more than ever, play an empowering role to that effect," he said.

Reducing prices is not an answer, as people may think that "You're doing them a favour, and that there's something weak in your product," he stated. Or, they may even lose faith in the brand, as they may feel it was overpriced earlier. Keeping prices constant suggests that the brand is stable, and brings value to the table.

It is also time for brands to be BOLD: Build for efficiency, Operate to acquire, Lead with experimentation and Design for engagement, Rao propagated. "It's lazy to say that slowdown is equal to recession, so let's postpone investing in our branding," he said. "It's about investing smartly, not stopping the investment." And digital can play a big role in that. Cases in point include even political parties such as the Congress Party's Jai Ho video on YouTube, or even BJP's 'Advani for PM?' shots all over various websites.

The stats look optimistic for digital: there has been a 55.9 per cent year-on-year growth in the digital medium over last year; the average internet user in India logs on to the internet 25 times in a month on an average; and 28 minutes is the average time spent online per visit. Social networking sites such as Orkut and Facebook help brands track their popularity.

What is also interesting is the fast-exploding myth that only urban India is clued in to the digital revolution. "A tourist taxi driver from a small town has advertised his services on YouTube and he has been flooded with calls from around the globe since," Rao revealed. "So the real question is: Can we even guess the kind of people that are online these days?"

Concluding with a nugget on slowdown, Rao stated that as consumers act emotionally, this is the right time for brands to win them over. "Your brand will survive. Recessions come and go; brands are here to stay," he said optimistically.