Four Lessons from the Google Instant Launch

Earlier this month, Google (GOOG) unveiled a new search technology called Google Instant that shows results as you type. It's an impressive feat of engineering. It's also striking for the way it was introduced to the public. I watched the presentation on the Internet and tracked the way Google announced the "enhancement" via Twitter, other social networks, and its blog. The launch offers four valuable lessons for any business introducing new products or services.

1. Explain the gist of it.

I recently heard a question that I think more companies should being asking themselves when they launch a product: What's the gist? Google Vice-President of Search Products & User Experience Marissa Mayer described it during her presentation by simply saying, "Google Instant. Get search results as you type." The description—or headline—is concise enough to fit in a post on Twitter and it's simple enough for most customers and media to explain it to others. According to The New York Times, Google Instant "shows results as soon as someone begins to type." Find the simplest way to describe your product so your listener can understand it quickly. More important, make sure your listener can explain it to others.

2. Use PowerPoint to complement the message.

Mayer's presentation slides were just as simple and uncluttered as the Google website. The focus remained on her and the Google message. The slides simply acted as a complement to the narrative. For example, Mayer used a Henri Matisse painting called Woman With a Hat to demonstrate how information-gathering has evolved over the years. She also used the launch event location, San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, to make her message feel relevant. She explained that in 1935—when the museum opened—if you wanted to learn more about the painting, you would have to spend half a day to a day in a library. Mayer showed two slides as she told the story: one slide that simply showed the date, 1935, and a second slide that showed a photo of books in a library. "If you move forward to 1950, things get a little bit faster with the prevalence of the telephone," Mayer continued. She showed another two slides. The first simply displayed the date, 1950, and the second carried a photo of a telephone. The slides served as the backdrop to Mayer's narrative. PowerPoint should complement, not distract.

3. Sell the benefit clearly and concisely.

Readers of this column know that I'm a firm believer in the power of three when selling the benefit of your product or service. Since the human mind cannot consume more than three or four points in short-term memory, why overload it with dozens of ideas? Google's blog, presentations, and marketing material all focused on the three benefits behind Google Instant: faster searches, smarter predictions, and instant results.

4. Develop a social media strategy.

Google posted the entire product-launch presentation on YouTube, its video-sharing site. The 90-minute presentation included Mayer as well as other Google designers and engineers who played a key role in developing the new tool. At the same time, Google launched a landing page with more information, videos, and FAQs about the enhancement and linked to the landing page from stories on the official Google blog. The material was consistent and coordinated. Google also used Twitter as a tool to deliver the information and to create buzz. Instead of simply announcing the product—as most companies might have done—Google highlighted certain features. One Google Twitter post read: "Key feature of Google Instant: dynamic results. Try typing 'w' & you'll get weather results with just one keystroke."

Attracting attention for a new product or service isn't easy, especially in a noisy environment where your competitors are trying to make news of their own. Putting time and thought into how you present and communicate the value of your new product will help you be heard.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.