What if Snap was bought by Google?

snap screenshot

It may be unlikely. It may require Snap chief executive Evan Spiegel to change his mind about the merits of independence but if it were to happen then a Google/Snap partnership could benefit both brands.

While Google would provide the cash and the scale, having struggled previously to develop something truly different to compete with Facebook, Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, would furnish its new owner with a ready-made and truly ‘mobile-first’ social network. Not just that but also a young, vibrant user base currently numbering 301 million active users around the world.

WPP and Kantar Millward Brown’s BrandZ global database of more than 3 million consumers reveals that both brands already share some core personality traits; Difference, Creativity and Fun, outperforming key competitors in these areas by some distance and suggesting a good fit in the eyes of the consumer.

Data for the US where Snapchat is best established and has more than 40% of its daily active users show that consumer perceptions of Google’s personality versus the average ‘online sharing’ brand indexes at 146 on perceptions of Difference versus. an average of 100, 118 on Creativity and 113 on Fun. Snapchat is also well defined in these areas, scoring 121, 116 and 122 respectively.

In addition to these synergies, Snapchat would provide Google’s social offering with a shot of ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ excitement by delivering a sense of playful rebellion with a dash of sexiness thrown in; all areas where Snapchat currently comfortably outperforms its social peers (Snapchat scores 127 for Playful compared to the average social brand in the US, 112 for Rebellious, and 107 for Sexy).

Snapchat also has some areas of potential gain from a future partnership with Google.

What the brand arguably currently lacks is a sense of gravitas and wider credibility – remember it only launched in September 2011. Snapchat currently lags its competitors on BrandZ’s Meaningful measure, which assesses a brand’s ability to meet consumer needs and be loved (Google leads the way with a huge indexed score of 192 followed by YouTube on 166, Facebook 157, a massive lead on Snapchat’s score of 76.

Google’s gravitas is also reflected in two personality traits the brand ‘owns’ in the social sphere in the US – Wise and Trustworthy, where the brand indexes at 111 and 110 respectively compared to 93 and 89 for Facebook, 89 and 87 for YouTube and Snapchat’s scores of 89 and 83.

Overall, Snapchat would also gain a parent company with the funds both to make acquisitions and supercharge its augmented reality technology. A joint Google Glass and Snap Spectacles effort, for example, could result in an AR device that is not just powerful but also appealing. 

Google has the technology to unlock more information about Snapchat, which combined with Google’s advertising expertise and brand and agency connections could boost ad revenue.

However, Snap may feel that it already has powerful partners and doesn’t need the backing of Google to be a successful brand. It was the first start-up to receive investment from both Tencent and Alibaba and has already entered BrandZ’s Global Top 100 Most Valuable Brands 2017, valued at $12bn and ranked 93rd overall.

The question for Snap’s C-suite is whether going it alone or teaming up with Google makes it more likely to achieve the presence and truly global scale that rivals such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram already enjoy.

The danger, however, is that any partnership could blunt the brand’s unique edge and encourage consumers to seek out the next independent offering to get excited about.

Snapchat’s success to date may have been equivalent to punk rock’s rise against the establishment, raising questions about what might happen if it is seen to “sell out” in the eyes of its users.

Is a craft beer still truly a craft beer if it has been purchased by one of the big conglomerates? Does it still taste as exciting as it once did, particularly if the recipe has been altered, even slightly?

Google’s proposed purchase of Snap suggests we are about to find out if this applies to social media as well.

Martin Guerrieria is the global BrandZ director at Kantar Millward Brown.

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