Curiously, I was talking with a friend of mine about Motorola’s plans this past weekend and we had gotten on to a discussion about the equity in the Droid brand. Our conversation revolved mostly on how Motorola’s then plan to introduce another operating system and the destruction of the Droid brand it would bring. Obviously, things changed on Monday.
Google’s purchase could mean a number of things for the Droid brand. The interesting aspect is that this will essentially be Google’s first real consumer brand that lives outside of the Internet. Brands that extend to the tangible world – and especially the product world – are different beasts than purely digital ones. The care and feeding of a brand like this is much more than what Google has experienced in the past.
The Nexus line was probably their best foray into actual products and it could hardly be called a success. Otherwise, you have the current push for the Chrome laptops, which I am sure that many who are reading this probably haven’t even heard of. Even the Android operating system, which is poised to be ‘the’ mobile device platform in the coming years has anemic advertising behind it, smacking of Business-to-Business bland-our.
Should Google notice, they may have lucked into a solution that could make their own branded phone a success. With Droid, they have essentially a turn-key branding solution for their mobile products, as well as the channels necessary to make it easy to get things in front of clients. More importantly, they have the cache to convince shoppers to buy.
Motorola put a lot effort into creating the brand, which is possibly the strongest Android brand on the market, even though it seems that Motorola has backed away from the push, cutting down on the more pervasive, high-value advertising campaigns. With a little effort, Google could breathe some life back into the Droid brand and perhaps own the market once again, just as Motorola had done initially.
The question is will Google understand what needs to be done to maintain and grow the brand? There has been a lot of talk about Google’s purchase being merely for the mountain of patents that Motorola had relating to mobile devices and not so much about the actual product lines. Perhaps Google just doesn’t know what they have. It is not without precedent that large companies lack the understanding of everything they receive when they buy other companies. It happens all the time.
The other issue that’s brought up in this Businessweek article is that Google may just have to scuttle the brand to head off an exodus from the Android OS and scatter us to a number of proprietary mobile OSs. Should that exodus happen, WebOS and Windows phones may become the heirs to Androids other-than-iOS crown.
What would be the best way to operate this purchase? I would think that allowing Motorola Mobility to operate as a somewhat independent subsidiary would yield the best results. Google would get its patent protection for Android. Google would also get a premium supplier of handsets to make sure their Android vision is properly executed. In order to do this right, Mr. Page would have to keep Google’s branding off of Motorola – a hard thing to do with mergers. When people buy things, they can’t help changing those things.
For the Droid brand, it would be massive mistake to push forward a co-branding scenario that’s all too common in these situations, like ‘Droid by Google’ or ‘Google Droid’ Ruining strong brands is easy when you dilute them with the misplaced necessity of staking claim.
Personally, I am a big fan of Motorola and their mobile products. The Droid campaign was genius and perfectly executed against everything iPhone. I am also a fan of Google and the products they put forth, although I am unsure that this plan will work out on in the most fruitful manner.