Google creative lab’s robert wong on the energy of empathy in tech advertising

When Google wished to run its first Super Bowl commercial this year 2010, some execs disapproved. Why pay the premium when Google had already were able to dominate the search-engine market with out a single ad campaign?

However when co-founders Larry Page, Sergey Brin, together with then CEO Eric Schmidt screened ‘Parisian Love,’ they gave it the green light going to the airwaves.

The location featured a Google search bar from the perspective of a man who starts with typing ‘studying abroad in Paris.’ We’re then taken through his life journey via Google keyphrases. “Did a freaking Google search seriously just make me cry? I quit, Google. You win,” wrote TIME television and ad critic James Poniewozik.

Google skipped the Hollywood effects and celebrity cameos typical of several Super Bowl ads but its ‘Parisian Love’ received kudos and awards. Since that time, its NY City-based Creative Lab has released similarly touching yet straightforward videos to unveil newer products like Google Glass and the most recent Google app.

Google Creative Lab, an interior branding agency within the tech giant, has techniques that may be employed at any large or small tech firm. Robert Wong, the lab’s executive creative director, says the first rule is never lead with tech.

At The continuing future of Storytelling Summit, Wong told Entrepreneur that Silicon Valley advertisers mistakenly focus messaging on the perfect tech, rather than marketing the perfect life and how tech fits involved with it. He adds that as the Valley is full of top engineers and coders, it includes a shortage of gifted storytellers who will keep a tech brand highly relevant to the mainstream. Attracting non-technical consumers could make or break business because late adopters usually constitute 85 percent of the buyer base, according to Startup Professionals CEO Martin Zwilling.

“We’re always seeking engineers with artistic sensibility at Google," says Wong, a former accountant turned graphic designer. "There’s this mythology that the arts need to be separate from commerce.” Because of this, scientific innovation, product development and marketing is fragmented between departments. So it is the Creative Lab’s job for connecting the dots.

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Wong says the Google Creative Lab’s small and diverse culture empowers them to create relevant content for the mainstream and tech laggards. Independent from any advertising arms within the business, the Lab’s “Creative Five” is a variety of selected technologists and creatives from various fields: designers, mobile-developers, film producers, animators, writers, etc. The mini think-tank is charged with humanizing the multinational tech giant through the energy of storytelling.

Robert Wong, executive creative director at Google, speaks with

Image credit: Google

Another winning ingredient is empathy.

"Empathy is king," says Wong. When hiring talent, empathy trumps all job qualifications, regardless of how tech-savvy the candidate. Members of the "Creative Five" will need to have the opportunity to shift perspectives, embed themselves in the consumers’ shoes — and help executives do the same.

“There’s a tendency for those who create to get caught in the creator. Writers love words, designers want to design,” says Wong. He adds that avid travelers and foreigners have a tendency to help the team think more empathetically.

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For more tips about how to make your tech more compelling, Robert Wong says the four Ps of marketing is always an excellent start. He offers a refresher for startups getting into the field:

  1. For startups, it’s best if the core founding team includes or adopts a designer. Larger companies can launch internal creative labs but someone at most senior level must have confidence in its mission to champion it.
  2. Wong says the to begin the four P’s may be the foundation of any tech company: Purpose . “Have a compelling reason to exist that galvanizes on your own. If you have that in place, the proper talent naturally gravitates toward fulfilling that mission or purpose.”
  3. Culture is important. “We do our best work and we’ve fun with people we like,” says Wong. “It’s simple.”
  4. Google Creative Lab is strategically located in Google’s NEW YORK offices, not its headquarters in Mountain View, California. And that is for grounds. “Give [your creative team] distance and space to tinker. Simultaneously keep them near strategic objectives and business goals. The trick is keep them close enough to learn what’s making the consumers tick – but enough distance to call bullshit on product .”
  5. “The last P originates from a management perspective: process . How does one minimize friction and let people do their thing?” Measure the strengths and weaknesses of every team member, and assign them to the proper mission and projects accordingly. The procedure will demand less management and overhead. Says Wong, “I fundamentally think the very best products are manufactured because these were part of a mission they believed in.”

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