Inside Google Marketing: How we taught the Google Assistant to say G’Day

Maura Halpin / March 2018

What is the role of local marketing when launching products within a global organization? Google AUNZ Product Marketing Manager Maura Halpin shares three things her team learned from building a distinctly Aussie edge into the Google Assistant.

At Google, we understand that delivering useful and relevant products that delight our users is a key driver for building product and brand love. Our marketing team saw this firsthand when we invested in campaigns for the Google Search app and found our highest metrics actually resulted in overall favourability for the Google brand (+19%) among our core target audience.

We have a great history of homegrown Google products here in Australia—most notably Google Maps—but it’s important that every product we launch, whether developed locally or globally, is meaningful and relevant to Aussies. With the Google Assistant being such a personal and conversational experience with Google, our role as local marketers was to ensure this experience was thoughtfully localised. We set out to build an Assistant that would help Aussies accomplish everyday tasks, speaking naturally and in an Aussie accent.

Here are three takeaways we learned while building a distinctly Aussie Assistant:

1. Champion the local voice

It’s no secret that Australians have a particular way of saying things, whether it's shortening words (like servo and arvo) or making up a few of our own (like humpty doo and woop woop). To make sure the Assistant could recognise when someone asked, “Hey Google, where can I get some brekkie nearby?” our team worked on giving it a uniquely Aussie voice—literally.

We worked with our product teams to make sure the Assistant’s voice model understood Australian accents and developed thousands of local personality inputs to make it feel Aussie. That way, the Assistant could understand and use Aussie slang and colloquialisms, as well as play with personality elements like kookaburra calls and cultural Easter eggs (“Ok Google, are we going to Bonnie Doon?” “You’re dreaming!”).

To make sure the Assistant could recognise when someone asked, “Hey Google, where can I get some brekkie nearby?” our team worked on giving it a uniquely Aussie voice—literally.

2. Make it useful for local users

When Aussies asked the Assistant about local happenings or breaking news, we needed to ensure it delivered relevant content. So, we included direct integrations with local news and media partners such as ABC News, The Australian, and Stan as well as global partners including Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify. We also launched Actions on Google, our third-party developer platform, to allow local brands such as NAB, Domain, Origin, and Optus to build experiences specifically for the Assistant.

On top of this product-level localisation, we created a series of ads for Google Home—our hero device that’s powered by the Google Assistant—showing how the Assistant understands Aussies and can help them get more out of their day.

3. Understand and respect local culture

Finally, a top priority was making sure the Assistant understood topics specific to Australia as well as Aussie culture more broadly. We took a number of steps to assist with this, including testing our product experience with more than 350 Google volunteers through our internal beta product testing program. This process allowed us to test our Assistant’s knowledge of all things Australia, from when the Opera House was built to who invented the Hills Hoist clothesline.

Critical to the success of the launch was galvanising teams and individuals across the business to carry out the product testing. Taking a cross-functional team approach ensured our product testing spanned a diverse range of perspectives to help get our Assistant ready for launch.

Local marketing spurs Google Home sales in Australia

Between our Home campaign creative and a special launch event with media, word that the Google Assistant speaks ‘Strayan spread quickly. Our Google Home campaign drove strong upper funnel metrics, achieving awareness of 63%, consideration of 27%, and purchase intent of 23%, surpassing benchmarks and ultimately helping bring the Aussie Assistant to more users. When we exceeded our sales targets to close out 2017, it was clear that our local message had landed and we’d uncovered some crucial lessons for launching localised Assistants around the world.

Inside Google Marketing: What we learned from collaborating with Australia’s Hilltop Hoods