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Influencers Google Creators

Areas of influence: How Google uses co-creation to ‘permeate mainstream culture’

By Ben Jeffries, chief executive officer



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February 12, 2024 | 10 min read

Ben Jeffries of agency Influencer sits down with Eileen Mannion, vice president of marketing at Google UK, to pin down the search giant’s approach to creators and co-collaboration.

Google's logo on a wall of an office building, up close

Google's influencer strategy, up close and personal / Kai Wenzel via Unsplash

Google has taken a front-and-center role in every iteration of the internet since the late 90s. While still most associated with the search function that remade information as the internet’s favorite currency, the company since proven its agility and longevity through diversification.

Take how Google works with content creators. As user-generated content has defined the dawn of a new age of the internet, and as influencer marketing has opened up fresh new avenues for marketing, Google is a key player.

I sat down with Eileen Mannion, vice president of marketing at Google UK, to delve into Google’s marketing success and why culture is king, supercharging relatability in the marketing mix. As Mannion puts it, “Today, media is everything, everywhere. Remain open-minded. Stay agile. Keep innovating. Keep listening to the consumer. Have fun. And always keep a close eye on the metrics.”

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Creators everywhere

Mannion is keen to break down a common misconception: that creators’ place on the internet is only on social feeds. “Creators have become an essential part of the modern marketing mix, vital for building awareness and engaging diverse audiences. Alongside celebrities, they are now a staple in advertising – whether digital, out-of-home, radio, or TV.”

Mannion says that “YouTube’s creative ecosystem alone supports the equivalent of over 45,000 full-time jobs and contributes £2bn to the UK”. The status of creators and the power of the creator economy is now recognized across industries as a driver of sales; their presence is clear media.

Where Google radically departs from early influencer marketing approaches is in its adoption of collaboration and co-creation. Mannion details, “Audiences follow creators because they produce content they can’t find anywhere else, so when working with this talent co-creation is a must. At Google we’ve been experimenting in this space for some time, it's not a 'new thing’”.

Mannion calls a partnership with Jamal Edwards MBE to show the power of Chrome, as “one of the best ‘creator-led’ marketing activations we’ve ever done”. Edwards, who sadly passed away in 2022, embodied Google’s commitment to inclusion and championing talent. His work changed the blueprint for the music industry, building a channel on YouTube that gave a platform to a new wave of non-mainstream music. Eileen recalls “We gave Jamal creative freedom to tell the story of how ‘the web is what you make of it’ and the results were phenomenal.”

Taking a similar approach, we partnered with Google to enlist creators like comedian Munya Chawawa to promote Google’s new AI tool Bard with a TikTok song in his signature style. The work engaged Chawawa’s community while communicating Bard’s capabilities, as it helped him prepare for a date. Mannion explains, “We lend creative freedom to the creator we partner with. If you enforce too many guardrails and mandatories, the work you get in return won’t feel authentic and you won’t achieve impressive results.”

@munyachawawa #AD No one can resist a Bard Boy Impressing in international languages & enticing enchiladas made easy - #ThanksBard ♬ original sound - Munya Chawawa

This experimental approach to working with creators enables Google to leverage creators’ expertise and their relatability to capture attention and reap results.

Creators as a vehicle for connection

Audiences value feeling represented in the media they consume. For Mannion, “Viewers want to see their identities, passions, and values reflected in the content they watch, so it’s critical that we continue to support media and platforms where diverse talent can thrive… being open to these new ways of working is crucial to ensuring we are adapting to this evolution.”

Google has partnered with creators like Steven Bartlett to tap into specific communities. Google gifted Bartlett a Pixel Fold, with which he created content referencing the tech as his “second brain”, tapping into his business-minded, tech-savvy following. Creators offer brands a way to communicate with audiences in their own languages, through people they can relate to.

@steven This phone is my second brain have you got yours yet? #TeamPixel @Google #ad ♬ original sound - Steven Bartlett

Look also at Google’s ‘Pixel Lovers’ campaign, where creators, including big-brother host AJ Odudu and rapper Michael Dapaah, told real-life stories about their Pixel phones. Mannion says that using creators’ role in “permeating mainstream culture”, can help brands become part of the conversation. As those creators’ faces gain popularity, so can the brands they partner with.

Creators and community

Mannion shares that creators “are incredibly close to the constant evolution of culture, but it’s critical to find the right talent for your brand and build authentic relationships.”

The integration of sports culture with media is a great example of how brands are connecting with unique communities through creators. Recently, Google has been at the forefront of this relationship, collaborating with all types of creators.

Mannion highlights especially that “it is imperative for Google to lift the women’s game by raising the voices of creators and passionate fans,” including through Google’s Pixel FC, which involves a collective of female football creators and presenters. Last summer, she says, “Pixel FC content contributed 24% of views on 2023 Women’s World Cup content on [association football website] Goal.” Working with Influencer and Footballco across Pixel FC, Google increased the site's coverage of the Women’s World Cup ‘23 five-fold. We at Influencer were also proud to support Google in their sports marketing strategies through product seeding and VIP creator attendance at the games of their partner clubs, Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC, which have amplified Google and showcased the unique features on Pixel phones.

Mannion emphasizes the capacity for creators to act as catalysts for representation, acting as an impetus for connection and positive change: “Embrace diversity within the creator community. This will help you have a deeper knowledge of your audience and the cultural landscape. Include larger communities and smaller ones.”

“Every consumer moment, interaction, and surface is a marketing opportunity and part of the consumer journey. Working with creators should be part of holistic plans”, Mannion says. In a world where creators can be everywhere, and everyone can be a creator, brands must work collaboratively and creatively, emphasizing community, culture, and diversity. Creators play a pivotal role in helping brands connect with audiences, whether mainstream or niche, by embodying authentic representation and communicating in a language that resonates with them.

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