Content marketing? You ain’t seen nothing yet: Google Now and Glass

Content marketing? You ain’t seen nothing yet: Google Now and Glass


Personalised content and always-on content marketing are in vogue as a means for a brand to build a relationship with an audience. It reflects the adoption of media by consumers. You see this every day around you.

Everyone in my train carriage travelling from London to Edinburgh last Friday morning  was using some form of mobile or PC device. The pile of free newspapers was left untouched.

There is rarely a moment in the day that my youngest daughter doesn’t have her mobile phone out of her sight.

Media no longer fits neatly into segments of our day, instead we are constantly engaged.

Savvy brands are embracing the huge amounts of data that consumers share, more commonly known as big data, to inform how they communicate. The ultimate goal is for content to be tailored to each and every individual.

Public relations practitioners are excited about this opportunity. After all we’re in the business of building direct relationships, based on mutual understanding, with audiences.

Our profession has started to make the shift to work in this always-on environment.

Public relations practitioners need to be able to understand the data generated as consumers interact with networks and use this insight to inform content strategies that engage and generate conversations. We need to be agile so that we work in real time.

My view after testing Google Now for the past couple of months and speaking to a colleague on the Google Glass pilot last week, is that we haven’t seen anything yet.

Both technologies are some way from being mainstream but they provide an excellent window into the future.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”

Google Now is available on Android (integrated into the operating system), as an app for iOS and may be about to be added to the Google home page. It also drives predictive prompts on Google Glass.

The app pulls data from your use of Google services whenever you opt-in to share your data, such as calendar, email, Google+, maps, and search, to deliver predictive information without being asked.

Data is served on cards. This is the same format used on Google+. Content is promoted on a grey background.

Cards are served automatically and passively on Android or Glass, but you need to fire up the app on an iPad or iPhone. This makes the experience less intuitive.

The best experience is undoubtedly on an Android device. Each day my Samsung S3 informs me how long it's going to take to cycle to work based on traffic conditions, and the weather forecast.

If I'm on the move at lunchtime or in the evening it serves the details of nearby restaurants that I might like to check-out.

It is especially useful when you’re travelling. The flight information is typically more accurate than the information displayed in an airport and whenever you land in a new country you’re served cards with the time at home, the exchange rate, places to visit, and a translation service.

It has been invaluable this week travelling to Moscow.


There are cards for birthdays, events, news, public transport, and sports, amongst others.

My favourite prompt is one I typically get on a Saturday morning with travel directions and traffic information to a local café where I usually hang out with my son after we’ve been swimming.

None of the information presented is beyond the reach of a couple of clicks via a web browser but the utility of having personalised information served to you intuitively, just at the right time, is incredibly useful.

Google Now doesn’t always make the right call. I frequently receive directions to my home when I’m already at home.

I’ve found myself wanting to provide it with the email and search prompts it needs to deliver better information.

You can  manage the type of information that you receive by tweaking the settings.

Google Now is a big data project in the truest sense of the term. It has been variously described as a personal assistant and a killer application. Popular Science named it Innovation of the Year in 2012.

Google announced its developer ecosystem for Google Now in May at its Google I/O developer conference. It is seeking to open up both the number of inputs to Google Now and build third-party applications.

A number of brands including easyJet, Emirates,, and StubHub, are already working to deliver their content to customers via the platform.

Always-on technology

Google Now provides a good insight into how Google’s wearable Glass devices work. Glass is Google’s personalised computing project. It delivers an immersive always-on experience.

I caught up with Ketchum’s Ben Foster via a Google Hangout last week. He’s a senior member of our US digital team and a teacher at DePaul University, Chicago, and has been trialling Glass for the last month or so, after making a pitch to be part of the #IfIHadGlass project.

We talked about his pitch to be part of the project and what he’s learnt about how content is served from Google Now or Wikipedia, and recorded via the wearable device.

Wikipedia provides the knowledge graph for content for search results via Glass. Foster described how snippets of information are pulled from Wikipedia in response to search queries.

Foster reckons that Glass is likely to re-focus public relations activity on the Wikipedia community as errors in the content are quickly surfaced. If you do spot something incorrect on Wikipedia you’ll need to work with the community to get it changed.

Videos shot via Glass are compelling, according to Foster. Inevitably we act-up whenever we come face-to-face with a video recorder, whereas wearable video devices such as Glass provide a natural means of recording as the subjects don’t realise or forget they are being recorded.

Foster says that Glass provides a level of intimacy with family and friends that it isn’t possible to otherwise achieve and is a compelling way for brands to tell stories in the first person. He suggests that brand seek out stories to tell in the first person via artisans, crafts people, and technicians.

Post script: privacy trade-off

The move towards a greater level of intimacy between a consumer and a brand relies on the consumer being willing to continue to share data.

It is disconcerting when an organisation such as a Google seemingly understands your behaviour as well as one of your best friends. Google is clearly aware of this this issue and has started to provide an explanation for each Card. This drop down when you click the information button on the top right of each card.


Consumers have thus far accepted the implicit relationship with a brand based on sharing personal data providing that they gain sufficient value in return.

History tells us that if trust is breached or the relationship is abused consumers will be quick to reject the technology.

If you’re worried about privacy issues you can chose not to use services such as Google Now or products such as Glass by restricting the data that you chose to share. Beyond that it’s an issue that privacy experts and legislators are watching with interest.

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