I've always felt one of the issues dogging Google, from an enterprise standpoint, is the concern that the company -- and by extension its products -- just aren't "serious" enough for the corporate world. I think many business executives are suspicious of Google's unconventional hiring and employee training practices and its apparent emphasis on innovation over execution.
Earlier this year Nucleus Research VP Rebecca Wettemann offered a less-than-positive assessment of a Twitter message from Google's Dave Girouard hinting at Google's intent to link its Google Apps to other Google services like the Blogger platform, Groups forum-building platform and FeedBurner RSS application. Her take:
If it's a message to the enterprise decision-maker, he's missed his mark.
While business users appreciate Google Apps' ease of use and collaborative capabilities, their bosses are more apt to be more concerned about niggly issues like uptime, support, compliance and security. A software developer who worked for both Google and Microsoft wrote a blog post in which he opined Google favored cool over quality.
So. I'm not sure Google is doing itself any favors with a new advertising campaign utilizing billboards located near busy roadways in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston to encourage IT decision-makers to consider switching from Microsoft Office and Outlook to Google Apps. Google says it won't advertise in other print or broadcast media yet. IT managers in other cities can get a idea of what the billboards will look like from watching a YouTube video that shows five of 30 messages that will appear during the campaign. The billboards come off as self-consciously hip, with an old-fashioned newsprint-style font (retro cool!) on a stark white background.
To support the campaign, Google also launched a "Spread the Word" Web site offering materials such as posters that can be printed out and posted by business users who want their bosses to consider Apps. Sample message. "My e-mail inbox is full. I want to go Google. This piece of paper was affixed here anonymously by someone who wants to use Google Apps at work." Managers are just going to love those -- not.
To be fair, folks can also print out fact sheets with lots of specific, manager-friendly information on Gmail, Google Calendar and other Apps components and use an e-mail template to beg their managers to consider Apps. And there's also the increasingly ubiquitous Twitter stream (#gonegoogle).
From an advertising perspective, it's edgy. And that's the problem. IT managers aren't generally an edgy crowd. The campaign, and especially the site, reinforces the idea of Google Apps as being pushed by users onto a reluctant IT staff.
That's a shame, because I've heard great things from companies using Google Apps. My advice for users who want their bosses to consider Apps: Forget the tweets and the snarky posters. Instead, direct your boss to the YouTube videos featuring managers discussing their companies' experiences with Google Apps.