Inside Google Marketing: How Brand Studio brings the company’s mission to life

Zharmer Hardimon September 2018 Organizational Culture

Always keep “a relentless focus on the user.” That’s Sherice Torres’ advice for marketers. And it’s how she operates as a marketing director of Brand Studio, Google’s internal think tank that uses creativity, media, and technology to create experiences that connect Google products to the people who use them.

At Brand Studio, Torres, a former Viacom exec, leads the team responsible for driving brand programs for crisis response and sustainability. It’s a job that not only keeps the focus on people, but ties directly to Google’s overall mission: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

I sat down with Torres to take a closer look at Brand Studio’s role and strategy. What follows is our conversation about the power of communicating brand values, the most challenging part of her job, and lessons brands can learn from Google’s approach to marketing.

headshot of Sherice Torres

Zharmer Hardimon: You’re tasked with helping people understand Google’s mission as it relates to crisis response and sustainability. Can you talk more about what that entails?

Sherice Torres: Our job in Brand Studio is to take the words behind Google’s mission and really bring them to life, demonstrating Google’s values in action through programs, partnerships, and campaigns.

In the crisis response space, we partner with a cross-functional team to help our users in the wake of natural and man-made disasters. The most obvious way we do that is by providing credible, timely information through our products (SOS Alerts, Crisis Maps, People Finder). We also provide skilled volunteers and offer grants through Google.org.

We know the path to a cleaner, healthier future begins with the small decisions we make each day.

When it comes to sustainability, we focus on amplifying Google’s efforts to operate in a sustainable fashion, as well as using our platform to empower others to do the same. We know the path to a cleaner, healthier future begins with the small decisions we make each day. That’s why we’re committed to making smart use of the Earth’s resources and creating products with the planet in mind.

One way we’re doing this is by using AI to help our data centers run on 50% less energy than the industry standard, and we’re building those data centers with components specifically designed for reuse in other Google facilities. We also offer open source tools, like Planet Sunroof from the Geo for Good team to help users identify how much energy and money they can save by installing solar panels on their homes.

Torres' tips for marketers: 1. Ask how your product fits in the users' life; 2. Focus on the "why" behind the work; 3. Don't be afraid to communicate your values

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

I’d say focus. There are so many different ways that we can help our users in times of crisis — from preparedness to response to recovery. The key is to focus on a few areas where Google can uniquely add value and can make an outsized impact to ensure that we are optimizing our efforts.

Can you share an example of some of the recovery work your team is doing?

We’re really proud of the Puerto Rico recovery campaign we recently launched with “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Hurricane Maria was the worst storm to hit the island in over 80 years, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives and creating over $90 billion in damages. Small businesses were severely impacted, with an estimated 10,000 still closed today.

Because Puerto Rico’s local communities are powered by small businesses, helping them recover is critical to the island’s economic and social recovery. We matched up to $2 million in user donations to help small business recovery through a grant to Mercy Corps and The Hispanic Federation. We amplified the ongoing support needed in Puerto Rico through a video narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as tweets from influencers across the Hispanic community including Jennifer Lopez and Olympian gymnast Laurie Hernandez.

What’s one thing you think brands can learn from Google’s approach to marketing?

A relentless focus on the user. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how brilliant our products or services are. If they’re not making a tangible impact on the lives of our users, they are useless. We understand that what drives us every day, behind every decision we make, is the passion to significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible through our products and services, like providing updates on your morning commute automatically through an alert on your phone, or automatically suggesting a faster route on Google Maps.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the latest feature enhancement or other product bells and whistles. The key is to tap into the user insight — how does this product or service fit into the user’s life — and tell that story. It’s never about us. It’s about the user. That’s why it’s critically important for Google marketers — and all marketers — to focus on the “why” as much as the “what” behind products, services, and initiatives.

What’s on your plate for the balance of this year?

On the sustainability front, we are preparing a number of programs and partnerships for launch at Gov. Jerry Brown’s Global Climate Action Summit this month, as well as putting the finishing touches on Google’s annual Environmental Report.

In crisis response, we’re working on a few exciting projects designed to expand our impact, from the days and weeks after a crisis event to helping families and small businesses prepare in advance of a crisis. We’re excited to expand our impact, and I can’t wait to see what we bring to life in 2019.

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