Brand Saga: Google India’s quest of ‘Reuniting’ humanity with heart-warming tales

Google India advertising journey

A tech giant but an emotional brand”, the Google India Advertising Journey is the epitome of carving beautiful narrations to drive home the brand message, creating legacy for the brand in a short span.

Partitions divide countries, friendships find a way,’ – the unforgettable Google ‘Reunion’ campaign has made us all shed tears of joy. A granddaughter in India decides to surprise her grandfather on his birthday by reuniting him with his childhood friend (based in Pakistan) after 6 decades of separation due to the partition, with a little help from Google Search. The storytelling so warm, the narration so impactful, the campaign is truly one of its kind. This Thursday, we kickstart the New Year for Brand Saga by revisiting the Google India advertising journey.

Google Enters India

Google, an American search engine company, founded in 1998 by Sergey Brin and Larry Page forayed in India only in 2003-04, at a time when the internet penetration in the country was just 0.4% as compared to the 500 million and growing internet userbase now.

Since then the company has undergone several changes and evolved its array of offerings with a set goal- to bring all Indians online. From enhancing its Search feature to building tools for small businesses and promoting online payments, and advertising services, Google wanted to help Indians connect to the Internet seamlessly – a trend that reflects in the Google advertising journey as well.

Google India Advertising Journey

While there is no clear indication of when and how did  Google start promoting its offerings in the Indian market, there is a huge portfolio of the company when it comes to launching campaigns,-keeping the Indian consumer at the core of its communication strategy.

In its initial years, Google helped fans discover films, movie characters, songs, actors, showtimes, and trailers aligning its core objective of connecting people through the power of the Internet. After enabling a seamless experience for users to search their queries in simple and natural language and speeding up the process, Google shifted its focus to the mobile revolution.

Towards 2007-08, the company stated that mobiles will become the primary means of access to the Internet. Following the announcements, it also joined hands with telcos like Airtel to amplify the message set up amidst a dystopian narrative to promote ‘Search Made Simple’.

In 2009, the company updated a more sophisticated version of Google Chrome and started marketing tidbits about better browsing by positioning Google Chrome as a web browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier.

It was followed by releasing 15-second ads offerings tips for secure search language, dictionary, conversions, time, weather et al, making users aware of the specifics of Google Search. The campaign performance-enhanced company’s offerings to promote searches for education, businesses, news, train tickets, flight tickets, jobs, products, etc and saw a steady rise in the queries with time. 

In 2010, DLF IPL’s craze loomed over India and Google too leveraged IPL’s larger than life fan image to churn out interesting animation campaigns – be it the story of a wife-husband or cricket, promoting Google Search as the only go-to option for tracking live cricket scores.

Further, with initiatives like Google Doodle for India, Engage India, and service suites like Adwords, Gmail, and Google Hangouts, the company constantly looked for marketing the product specifications with suitable narratives in its advertising.

In 2012, as part of a global campaign ‘Web is what you make of it’, conceptualised by BBH for the Indian series, highlighted common users in India and around the world who are passionate to leverage the power of the web to achieve the extraordinary.

Through a series of short videos including stories from celebrities and common consumers, the campaign encompassed how the web and its products have changed the lives of millions.

Apart from featuring tools and updates like Voice-guided GPS updates for Androids, it also rolled out campaigns for the Great Indian Shopping Festival and human interest stories like Celebrating India with Google+, the tech giant’s attempt at entering the Social Networking domain.

The Reunion Story

In 2013, Ogilvy India and Google India weaved a heartwarming tale that traveled across boundaries and won millions of hearts, taking the storytelling aspect one notch higher. Titled  ‘Reunion’, the three and a half minute ad film was directed by Amit Sharma, written by Sukesh Kumar Nayak, produced by Ogilvy & Mather (now Ogilvy). Piyush Mishra lent his voice for the background score, composed by Clinton Cerejo, and lyrics given by Neelesh Mishra….phew!

Reunion is a tale of two childhood friends, Baldev and Yusuf, separated during the India-Pakistan partition in 1947. Baldev’s granddaughter Suman with the help of Google Search reunites the two friends. The impact was such that the campaign went viral and was viewed more than 1.6 million times before officially debuting on television on November 15, 2013. The commercial has 15 Mn views on YouTube and over 50 Mn views across all digital platforms to date. The film inspired the India-Pakistan government to ease the visa procedures.

According to Ogilvy’s Sukesh Kumar Nayak, Google had stated in their brief that “Google is a technology product but is an emotional brand. The only thing they wanted was to see how meaningful the search engine is in real life.” Nayak also stated that they wanted to make “the connection between real life and Google, magical.

Reunion was filmed in different areas in Delhi, including an old Haveli in Connaught Place, Red Fort, India Gate, and a small scene in Lahore, Pakistan.

This is the first of a sequence of five ads showing the two old friends reconnecting. The brand used shorter product films on the online platform to deliver its message.

Reunion added a new chapter to the Google India Advertising Journey.

Celebrating Togetherness

For the 2014 election campaign, Google teamed up with celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan and Virender Sehwag to urge users to vote as responsible citizens.

As part of its ‘Helping women get online’ initiative, Google India launched a digital film ‘Together Online’ in 2015 urging mothers to come online. Conceptualised by Lowe Lintas & Partners, the campaign highlighted the divide between digital migrants and digital natives in India.

Later, for India, Google shifted its major focus on democratizing Internet access for non-English speakers considering the growing penetration of the Internet in the hinterlands – it launched Voice search and easier text input mechanisms within Android Google Search App.

In a bid to bring into the forefront the real stories of strength from India while subtly integrating its products, Google rolled out ‘The Story of Amit’ through Google Photos to celebrate the memories treasured by a visually impaired person.

With a little help from Google Photos’ image search and organisation features, Amit was able to rediscover all those memories he’d been a part of but missed out on seeing.

Then came ‘The Hero- A Bollywood Story’ in 2016 created by Lowe Lintas Delhi starring Vicky Kaushal. The story of a father and son on a journey to rediscover dreams, Bollywood style, with Google Search by their side. The six-minute-long film was inspired by lost dreams that millions of Indians have about making it in Bollywood.

With programmes like #SkillUpScaleUp and Internet Saathi, Google India has been constantly sharing real tales of achievers from the hinterlands and the urban population who strived to do the extraordinary with the help of Google products.

For its Google Pixel offering, the brand brought on board Twinkle Khanna a.k.a Mr.Funnybones where she talks about juggling various roles and responsibilities and still finds time to take a selfie where Google is her constant partner.

Google Assistant’s campaign ‘Let voice lead the way’ conveyed the value of having one’s own personal Google which extends to help you across devices, like Google Home, your phone, and more followed by the rollout of #MakeGoogleDoIt.

GoogleDuo’s video calling feature campaign #BeThere highlighted how the app allows users to be with their loved ones and experience moments from wherever they are. The advertisement took a light-hearted narrative with a humorous take. The series contained two more additional films building curiosity around the features of Google Duo.

In 2018, Google’s advertising investment increased by 45 percent to INR 696 crore in comparison to 2017. The company’s overall media investment, as per entrackr.com, estimated at INR 1,100 crore. Out of this, over 50 percent was spent on the digital medium.

The major part of its advertising and marketing drive featured its consumer-facing offerings including Google Maps, video-calling product Google Duo, payment app Google Pay, and hardware products like Google Pixel and Google Home. In print, the search engine firm promoted its enterprise product G Cloud. Google has been eyeing high-impact properties such as cricket and entertainment programmes, and popular movies.

Also Read: #SocialThrowback2020: Brand Saga Recap – Must-read advertising journeys that aged like fine wine

Supporting SMBs, under its #StoriesFromIndia initiative, Google India brought into the limelight the tales of family businesses to start-ups, portraying how Indian businesses are using the internet to take their products to customers across the world

The company’s 2018’s Google For India – a short film created by Leo Burnett, depicted how the internet empowers people. It largely focused on rural India and showcased how using the internet has made people more independent.

The campaign highlighted the tremendous impact that Google’s various initiatives have on India. While working for the campaign, the agency mapped Google’s initiatives such as rail Wi-Fi and its developer’s training programme and picked up real use cases, stories from the ground.

In 2019, Google roped in the popular couple – Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma who were seen promoting Google Duo in the background of a 90s song.

In September 2019, during the Google for India event, the tech giant launched its new app ‘Google Pay For Business’ to encourage SMBs to adopt digital payments and make the process of onboarding easier via video KYC, and instant verifications using Google Duo. 

The company also teamed up with YouTube influencers to spread awareness on online safety. It launched tools such as the Security Checkup and Password Checkup to help users strengthen their Google Account security and address issues immediately.

In February 2020, in a bid to step up its efforts to ensure the online safety of users amid increasing reports of cyberattacks, the spread of fake information, and hate speech, Google India rolled out #PehleSafety to educate users about best practices to stay safe online. 

In October 2020, Google launched a ‘Make Small Strong’ initiative to help small and local businesses across the country. The new initiative launched by Google was aimed at supporting Kirana stores, vegetable vendors, and more who suffered massive losses during the Lockdown. 

December 2020 saw the company release a video campaign, #BolneSeSabHoga featuring Gajraj Rao. Google recognized a relevant Indian behaviour of asking for help and built its campaign around it. The ad promotes an ideology of getting all your questions answered by asking the right person. 

At present with an insight that some things are best said in the language, you love and Google loves having so many languages to express,  the company’s ongoing campaign ‘Your internet in your language’ empowers Google’s commitment towards building an internet where you can say more, read more, and access more information in your preferred ‘bhasha’.

The Google India advertising journey through its heartwarming tales and product integration has made tangible effects on our lives, encompassing human interest stories and enabling a sense of permanency for its campaigns. Very few brands can boast of an impact on a demographic so diverse and widespread. But, Google India has done it.


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