The Subtle Genius of “Okay Google”


It struck me today that I don’t think I’ve heard anyone speak about these voice services from a particular marketing perspective. Sure, there’s been talk about marketing the devices, the services themselves and even how selling something would work on a platform where there’s no visual aspect to it. But let’s talk about something different. Let’s talk about branding.

The overall goal of branding a service, product or company is to basically connect the name or representation of the company to (typically) positive aspects that set them apart from their competition. It also comes in two flavors, the perception of what the company experience would be and perhaps even more important, the connection to the actual qualities experienced afterward.

Ideally, this allusion is also instrumental in nudging the buying process into the company’s favor. For instance you have DeWalt, a brand distinct from Black & Decker whose products are aimed at professional builders. Thus the branding works to exude an almost industrial-quality ruggedness. Or there’s Breitling who positions themselves as the timepiece of the elite sports enthusiast by connecting the products to pursuits of the wealthy like pylon racing or high-end auto racing. DeWalt tools are pictured at the job site, and Breitling is plastered all over events like Le Mans. That’s their best shots at reaffirmation and connecting with the target audience.

So how do the voice services do in this regard? There are a number of services out there but I’ll focus on the big four: Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant. The first three are all brand new names in the personal electronics space. Google chose to go for something of a brand extension. Interestingly, the “…Assistant” part of the Google service doesn’t show up much. The other’s are also the call word to activate the service. One summons the Google Assistant with “Okay Google” Big deal, right?

Looking a bit more closely, the first three product names have no real baked in connection to their respective master brands. Each of the firms had to work diligently to connect the dots and construct not just the connection but the individual names themselves. It’s a much more difficult time to think of Cortana or Alexa as a component of the greater ecosystem of their respective companies. It’s been tough sledding to get people to recall shopping on Amazon with their Echo products. I’m sure it’s been rather dreadful trying to explain the utility of Cortana with Microsoft products and Siri’s, well, Siri – it seems to be around to help sell the phone you already have.  

Then there’s Google’s foray. What’s so genius about saying “Okay Google” is that the company’s brand name is on the tongue of every person who uses the device. That’s something to really let sink in.


It’s a branding coup unlike anyone has ever seen. Google has figured out a way to have customers say its name over and over again – and (most times) in the exact moment when their main service is needed most. The name ‘Google’ is synonymous with search and now when people use their nearly omnipresent Google device they also repeat over and over again the brand of the company. Every utterance for the service is a reaffirmation in Google as the search of choice.

Previously, the best outcome was having a customer hear your brand name, there’s having them see it and there’s having them read it. To have the customer in their head connect the name of the company with its prime product over and over and over again from thinking to saying and being rewarded is almost the greatest psychological trick marketing could achieve.

Will Google be victorious in the space? I don’t know. From a branding standpoint, they’ve got the best foundation out there.

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