The smartest tech brains on the planet created “platforms” – digital environments where the rest of us interact to do whatever it is we want to or need to do. The richest man on the planet owns a platform – Amazon – to let buyers and sellers come together and interact in a safe marketplace. LinkedIn lets professionals come together. Facebook lets friends and family come together. Twitter is super popular for gabfests of opinions and trivia!

Google arguably has some of the smartest people working for them. Why then did their social platform, Google+, go kaput? Google announced in October 2018 that the platform did not find much traction with consumers and a typical user session lasted about 5 seconds. They will phase out the platform by around August 2019 for consumers and leave it around just for enterprise communication.

One is compelled to analyze the failure of Google+ because really the failure is a masterclass in Marketing – it reaffirms the very fundamentals of what good marketing is at its heart.

Good marketing, at its heart, is a perfect fit between just two things – a value proposition and a clearly identified and defined benefit segment.Value propositions in vacuum are absolutely meaningless unless you have also identified a group – the benefit segment – that can derive the greatest number of tangible benefits from the offering, because of the group’s inherent characteristics – demographics, psychographics, usage behaviors, or general attitudes. All good marketing plans must clearly articulate both the value proposition and the benefit segment.

What’s a good example of a perfect fit between a great idea and a tangible-benefits segment?

A perfect example is single-serve shampoo sachets in India. The benefit segment (low-income) could not afford large bottles of shampoo, nor did they use shampoo that often – so a single serve pack was what real people ideally needed, say, when they were decking up for a marriage party. So, whoever came up with the idea of single-serve shampoo sachets was a very smart marketer – they identified a need and a benefit segment that was easy to convince of the tangible benefits of the product, the price, the placement, all with the right promotion – “hey, you can afford this, you’ll love it, and you don’t have to store it”.

So there was a value proposition and a clearly defined tangible-benefits segment

That’s what all the successful platforms did. Mark Zuckerberg created a platform (Facebook) with a specific value proposition – “make friends”, targeted at a specific benefit segment – college students. Twitter created a platform for people to share their status with followers. Even outside the space of platforms, people do the same thing. Starbucks is where coffee lovers go to laze and spend time. Well-defined benefits, well-defined benefit segment.

Now, ask these questions of Google+.

What is the value proposition? In a nutshell – “Discover and Share“. About a decade back, someone at Google must have gotten terribly excited – “hey, everyone loves to discover and share!!”. They were convinced it was a legitimate need. Google anyway is about discovery. So it all seemed straightforward enough for the smart guys at Google to start away.

But what about the tangible-benefits segment?

Surprisingly, Google didn’t bother.

Google created the feature called “Communities” – and figured people would automatically organize themselves into need- or benefit-based segments. They imagined that somehow the magic would just happen. Bird lovers would come together. As would poetry lovers. As would pottery lovers. As would car lovers. And they would create, discover, and share.

The communities did happen – some grew to be about 5 million strong. But, gradually, the tangible benefits faded. Why? Because most of us don’t actively create content. We consume content. Only a handful of people were creating content and the content became repetitive. By and by, no one was benefiting. And this lead to the ultimate demise of Google+.

It really is that simple.

Google had a good value proposition – but just did not think of who the benefit segment would be. They made a one-size-fits-all product – a cardinal sin in marketing. It’s only natural that they are letting the enterprise version of Google+ survive – because in that space the benefit segment is well-defined – co-workers discovering and sharing work-related content.

In fact, now the direction that Google is taking with most of its products has the benefit segments clearly defined and articulated. Google Allo is a messenger app closely integrated with Google Assistant. What that means is that if you are making plans for lunch with a friend, you can search and make reservations for a great restaurant without leaving the app. And it brings to boot Google’s advances with Artificial Intelligence through the integration with Assistant. The tangible-benefits segment is clearly defined – people who want the latest ideas on where to dine (or get other services), but are too busy to discover themselves – and also want a service that integrated scheduling! Busy people, great app.

The point is simple. Great products don’t just happen because of great ideas. They happen because of good planning. Come up with a good idea, but make sure you know exactly who will benefit from that idea – because, ultimately, that will be your bread and butter segment.

And, more than anything else, we all need bread and butter.

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