Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Chapter 19: Make Your Company a Great Story

Executive Summary:

How did Google get started?

We all know this one. Two guys in a dorm room set out to change the world. Why do we all know this one? Because it’s a great story. And great stories get great mileage.

Google is full of great stories beyond just its origin. Take a tour of the Googleplex in Mountain View and there’s a story behind everything and everyone you see. And they’re stories that bear repeating and get repeated to the tune of untold favorable PR impressions.

To get that elusive word-of-mouth and free PR, you need to do something remarkable.

Zappos “wows” people with customer service — and a pretty good origin story and corporate culture, too. Zappos also wowed people with its $1.2 billion sales to Amazon.

Stock your cash register with $2 bills and give people a reason to tell others about their experience.

Groupon has a hidden gem when you unsubscribe from its newsletter.

Southwest Airlines has charismatic flight attendants that do things that get people talking.

Give people — your employees, your customers, your relatives, everyone — something positive to say and a forum to say it.

Select Quotes:

“The warm, fuzzy, eco-conscious image of Google as a company actually matches what you find behind closed doors.”

– David Szetela, CEO, Clix Markting, @Szetela

“The people that have a story and evolve the story will succeed [because], today, people share those stories.”

– Steven Hall, Professor, College Of Media, University of Illinois

“The best brands have good customer service that pervades their environment. Carve out a slice of what you love and own it.”

– Steven Hall, Professor, College Of Media, University of Illinois

Final Thought:

If you want to wake up to the morning glory, be ready to answer, “What’s the story?”


Apr. 18, 2010: Groupon has certainly become a great story. Today, TechCrunch reported that Groupon took a round of venture capital that valued the company at a whopping $1.35 billion!

Aug. 24, 2010: In keeping with the story-telling theme, Google has been sharing “Your Google Stories” on its blog — a collection of stories submitted by Google users about how the Big G changed their lives.

Aug. 30, 2010: Here’s another great Google story — 23 Walls of Googley.

Sept. 24, 2010: Zappos continues to make itself a great story. Love this commercial.

Oct. 1, 2010: Methinks Groupon’s gone a bit too far in it’s bid to make the company a great story (and give its CEO a great tan).

Oct. 8, 2010: Per Scott Kier (seen here holding his change), Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger in Ann Arbor takes the $2 bill strategy quite literally!

Dec. 13, 2010: Kenneth Cole has quite the unique origin story, changing the name of the company to Kenneth Cole Productions and masquerading as a film studio to get permits from NYC to set up trailers on the street.

Dec. 14, 2010: Posted thoughts on Groupon and Google and why Groupon matters.

Apr. 1, 2011: Doing my part to make Kenshoo a great story.

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  • Scott K

    P. 294 – Zappos…

    Their practice of a protracted hiring process including purely social events, as well as making their front lobby into a village green of sorts is consistent as a best practice with a few things I have read or experienced…

    1. This is right out of Jim Collins' “Good To Great”: hiring is about not just specific skills but about getting the right people on the bus.

    2. Johnson Controls commissioned the “OxygenZ” report on the Millennial generation and how they view work. What that study and others have shown is that the next generation to enter the work force does not want to view work nearly as transactionally – “you do what I need from 9 to 5, I give you a paycheck”. Moreso than past generations, they really want to be personally invested in their work. You spend more time with your co-workers than your family and friends, and you spend more time working than anything else. These young people want to be invested, to care about their jobs beyond the monetary reward. They care about work-life balance more than past generations, but they want to do it by making work a little more like life. So Zappos' hiring process is a true mating dance, not just a screening for requisite skill sets and red flags. And their insistence on making sure their workers commingle makes their organization what a young work force wants it to be: a community.

    3. During my MBA internship with Systematic Software Engineering – a company in Aarhus, Denmark that writes mission-critical software for the defense and health care sectors – I learned a great deal about their culture by working with them for three months and brought home some lessons.

    Now, as much as we in America pay lip service to “all men are created equal”… we don't really live it. But in Denmark, they walk the walk when it comes to an egalitarian society. It's entirely possible that the CEO is weekend golf buddies with the guy sweeping the floors. You would certainly never see that here. In the workplace, it translates like this: there was a large meeting area extended from the central sun-splashed atrium that served as the cafeteria as well as a training and event space. It is common in Denmark for companies to serve a healthy lunch to their staff, and everyone comes down at the same time to eat together. No one eats at their desk (and rarely do people go our for lunch). My first day, when I didn't know anyone yet, I brought down a stack of white papers to get up to speed on some of the products my assigned team was working on. After about 15 minutes, I looked up and noticed no one else in the room was working! So the next couple of days, I came down without any reading material, but couldn't figure out why none of the four people I shared an office with wanted to sit with me. Finally Christian, with whom I would become good friends by the end of the summer, noticed I was a little confused and explained that lunch was a time to mix and mingle – it was expected that you would sit with people you don't share a space with all day, get to know new people, and soon come to learn everyone's name and what they do and who they are. They treated lunchtime as the “commons” the same way Zappos treats the front lobby as the community hub. And sure enough, by the end of the summer, I probably knew 150 people at Systematic by name.

    Another part of Systematic's “story” is their approach to training: they really allow their engineers to continually pursue new knowledge and push them to always raise their skill level, and this comes at great expense to the company. But they have a saying: better to invest in your people and risk that they leave, than NOT invest in them and risk that they STAY!

    As you might guess: Systematic has freakishly low turnover.

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