A Look at Google’s Marketing Strategy as It Goes Up Against the US Government

The ad giant says the DOJ's lawsuit is 'deeply flawed'

google logo on a phone
The Department of Justice and 11 Republican state attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google over its search practices on Tuesday. Getty Images

Google has come out swinging in the face of antitrust claims.

Almost immediately after the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against Google over its alleged monopoly in search and search advertising on Tuesday, the tech giant published a blog post that characterized the lawsuit as “deeply flawed.”

“People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives,” wrote Kent Walker, Google’s chief legal officer and svp of legal affairs.

“This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers,” he continued. “To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.”

As a brand, Google has entered crisis communications mode. Deb Gabor, CEO and founder of Sol Marketing, said the language brands choose to use and the spokespeople they bring forward in these moments are critical, so using matter-of-fact terms like “deeply flawed” reinforce Google’s firm stance that the suit holds no merit.

“That’s highly emotional language that was coming from … a not highly emotional department,” said Gabor. “It’s signaling to the world that this [suit] is ridiculous, and even the people who are the analytical experts on all things legal within our organization are dismissive of this.”

An antitrust case against Google has long been expected. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, defended the company’s market dominance before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee in July. Pichai told lawmakers that Google deliberately builds a platform to support innovation from other companies, which reduces licensing fees and therefore lowers phone costs for consumers.

Even before the DOJ and 11 Republican state attorneys general officially filed suit, Google has been consistent with its company line: “Google helps consumers.”

Eric Yaverbaum, CEO of public relations firm Ericho Communications and author of PR for Dummies, said the best crisis response plans are comprehensive and preemptive, so it’s important to receive input from multiple departments to ensure consistent messaging across the whole company.

“Throughout the investigation, the company has positioned itself as a fortunate participant in a competitive marketplace that uses its massive influence to elevate and champion ‘the little guy.’ The title of the blog post seeks to identify Google with the common consumer, framing a lawsuit against Google as a detriment to consumers,” said Yaverbaum.

Other than consumer and press outreach, Google has to consider how it keeps customers and clients informed, too.

Jay Friedman, president of media agency Goodway Group, said Google’s messaging to partners has typically been “safe” over the 15 years he has done business with the company. “Our opinion is there are hundreds of different outcomes here, and we’re advising our clients to be nimble and prepared for any result,” he said.

Yaverbaum said communicating consistent messages with all key stakeholders helps to preemptively put out fires.

“Maintaining an open line of communication between customers, clients, employees, and the organization makes it less likely for media outlets to receive contradictory or negative messages from those who could be perceived as representatives of the organization,” he said.

A key message from the blog post is that people use Google Search because they want to, not because they have to.

The DOJ claims that, for years, Google has accounted for almost 90% of all search queries in the U.S. It also says that “Google has entered into a series of exclusionary agreements that collectively lock up the primary avenues through which users access search engines, and thus the internet.”


@andrewblustein andrew.blustein@adweek.com Andrew Blustein is a programmatic reporter at Adweek.
{"taxonomy":"","sortby":"","label":"","shouldShow":""}