The Benefits of Not Advertising

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The Associated Press recently published a story about a curious phenomenon: Google is one of the most lucrative ad-selling companies in the world, yet rarely indulges in buying ads for itself. Today we take a look at the advantages Google gains against its competitors by not advertising.

Although you can see Yahoo’s ads on TV and in movie theaters, Google doesn’t follow suit, instead relying on word of mouth, buzz marketing, and media coverage to spread its gospel. There are numerous advantages to be gained from not buying ads. Here are just a few:
Saving Money – By not spending money on creating ads and then buying web space or airtime for them, Google saves a significant amount of money it can use towards developing its products or paying its employees.
No Risk of Oversaturation – The Dell Guy. The Sock Puppet. The Burger King (the mascot, not the company or the actual king). These were mascots and ad campaigns that overstayed their welcome. In fact, the Sock Puppet actually became one of the symbols of the failures of the dot com era. Google avoids the danger of a disastrous campaign by simply not having one.
Cultivating Your Brand – There are intangible characteristics that you attribute to brands you see in a newspaper, in a magazine, or on TV. By not having a large presence in any of those common mediums, Google cultivates a certain mystique about them. In some ways, Google’s absence seem to imply that they are above those forms of advertising, that it doesn’t need advertising any more than a company like Digg does. Whether it can maintain this is certainly up for debate, but it’s certainly handled its marketing fairly masterfully so far.

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

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  • Gyutae Park

    These are all great points, but I think they’re only valid and realistic when looking at a hugely successful company like Google that started up without much advertising to begin with. Buzz marketing is what got them to this point and buzz marketing is what continues to drive them. However, most companies do not have this luxury and sometimes it is important to advertise to even get a foot in the door.

  • gigi

    it must be interesting to work in Google’s marketing department

  • Sameer

    Hmmm. Google may not be doing adverts but they are spending plenty on product placement on prime-time dramas. The phrase “I googled XYZ” is showing up all the time.

  • Sameer

    Come to think of it, product placement is sooo Google. 1) Im DVR-ing everything I watch so I wouldn’t have seen the ad anyway and 2) Product placement in investigative dramas where fact finding is key makes Google the perfect match.
    So even if they are spending money on advertising, product placement is way more effective than a commercial for Search. Your ROI analysis still stands 🙂

  • jim spencer

    This article is remarkable in pointing out that, to use an old Microsoft phrase, Google does not eat it’s own dog food.
    Do you think that they don’t need traditional advertising so much because they target a tech audience which is already in the house using all of their bazillion products, Analytics, Web Master Tools, Reader and so on?

  • Dan Schawbel

    You can parallel this to natural and paid search. If you rank high in natural search you are perceived to have more credibility because anyone can buy keywords.

  • Patrix

    I think Google not advertising is more to do with their primary service i.e. search than any other reason. After all, we do see Apple using advertising effectively to promote their brand and so does Microsoft although the latter is a clear market leader.

  • Goran

    Well, to be honest, i worked in one Croatian startup – a web-based classifieds for cars. This was oversaturated marked, but after a while, people started to type the name of the website on google. this was after we spent a lot of money into advertising (both online and offline). after one year, organic traffic from google was 60% of all traffic, and, more important, 50 % of it was the brand name (domain name). This site has terrible SEO (i realized that afterwards), but good service, and my main point here is that, after a while, you get noticed, and for small companies either effort (buzz, advert both offline/online) is not gonna get you anywhere if you don’t offer good product/service at a fair price…

  • Jeff Burkett

    Very good input from everyone here, but I have to say that the only reason Google doesn’t advertise is because it has a product that kicks all of its competitors asses!!!
    They got into the game early and then changed the game completely. All of this through the word of mouth created from having a superior product.
    Frankly there are no benefits from NOT advertising, but in some cases there is no benefit to BE advertising. In Google’s position right now I think they would be wasting money if they did advertise.

  • Kevin

    Has anyone considered that Google might not be paying for the TV and movie mentions at all? In the popular consciousness, it really is a verb and it makes sense that script writers would try to reflect that authenticity. Might be organic results.

  • Digital Expert

    This post has provoked quite a reaction! I agree with Kevin that Google probably isn’t paying for product placement: the word ‘google’ is synonymous with internet use these days.
    Also, it’s hard to see how they could increase their market domination with the use of advertising; if anything advertising would probably damage it’s brand by taking from it’s credibility.

  • Steve Yakoban

    Good points in this post but I think Google is way beyond them now. They ARE the category killer in search, advertising, and more. Their stock is through the roof. They grow at a good pace just by doing what they do. So how much more can they gain from advertising?

  • OCStandard

    I think it shows you they are true experts with what they sell. They have a product that everyone World wide knows about, and yet they never advertise. They are amazing.