The Google Pixel Branding – Decoding The Success Story

When we think about smartphone brands, what’s the first one that comes to your mind? Apple? Or perhaps Samsung? Well, they have been dominating the smartphone segment for a while now. But there’s also one other brand that’s making waves in this industry. A brand that has also recently joined the league of foldable phones. A brand that has been slowly but steadily creating a stable ecosystem with endless possibilities. Yes, we are talking about Google Pixel. 

Google Pixel is a relatively new name in the smartphone biz. Yet the brand’s lineup includes some bestsellers both in the personal communication devices category and the work phone category. 

Google, in spite of joining the hardware segment a little late, has made a name for itself in the crowded market. The story of how Google managed to position Google Pixel as a league of its own while staying connected to its roots with just the right amount of differentiation from the Google brand is something that a marketer should understand. 

Ready to learn from Google Pixel’s tale of branding brilliance? Let’s unravel the strategies that have helped the brand. 

Google Pixel brand – an overview

A few years ago, the word Google was all about search. Then came Google’s suite of apps in Google Workspace. Until 2012, Google was predominantly focused on software products but things changed when it ventured into the hardware segment with the launch of Nexus Q. However, the brand’s hardware undertaking took solid shape with the introduction of the first Google Pixel smartphone in 2016. 

The Google Pixel brand has grown remarkably in the short span since its inception. Yes, only 4.6% of smartphone users in the US use a Google Pixel device as their primary phone but the growth has been steady. The smartphone segment is tough and unpredictable after all! 

In fact, the Google Pixel brand’s progress in the smartphone segment has been quite impressive. It stood in the 5th position in the list of the most popular smartphone brands in the US in 2022 overtaking brands like OnePlus, for example, which was founded three years before Google Pixel was launched. 

Taking all these data into account, is Google’s strategy to push the Google Pixel brand a hit or a miss? The answer depends on whether Google has managed to achieve its objectives with the introduction of the Google Pixel brand. We’ll break down the answer for you. 

Is Google Pixel a branding hit or miss? 

Measuring the success of a business is not as straightforward as it sounds. A business that emerges as a market leader in its industry is still not an ideal marketing inspiration if it has not managed to achieve the business objectives. 

Making the most sales might be the goal in some cases. But in others, businesses might launch a product line to enable the growth of an existing product or service. In this case, even if the new product does not rise above its competitors if it manages to enable the product line in focus, then it’s still a hit. Google’s case with the Google Pixel lineup is somewhat similar. 

In a broad sense, one of the main reasons Google ventured into the smartphone segment was to create hardware for unrestricted software capabilities. In other words, to create hardware that supports all the upgrades coming to the Android operating system and the Google Ecosystem. 

The true potential of AI tools like Google Assistant, for example, depends on the kind of data and hardware access the tools receive. For Google Assistant to be able to fully optimize the smartphone experience for a user, it helps when the hardware supports it. And this is achievable when Google makes the hardware in-house. Hence the Google Pixel line of smartphones made by Google inside and out

Taking this background into consideration, don’t you think the Google Pixel brand is a hit? 

The on-device interactions with Google Assistant which received a huge upgrade with Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 are proof that Google’s plan for Pixel is working. Powered by Google Tensor which has superior machine learning capabilities, the Pixel phones are more likely to be the ultimate support in Google’s progress toward integrating AI capabilities in its apps. 

5 brilliant Google Pixel campaigns and why they worked 

We saw that the Google Pixel brand has clearly managed to fulfill its purpose. But this did not happen overnight. Google’s first attempt in the hardware segment did not go that well. Google did come across a few stumbling blocks – the failure of Nexus Q, for example. Poor marketing was among the many reasons attributed to the poor performance of the Nexus Q. 

Hence with Google Pixel, the brand reinvented its approach both in terms of the campaign ideas and the campaign designs. Let’s look at some of these hit campaigns that helped propel the growth of Google Pixel. 

1. The no-nonsense advertising approach for Google Pixel 1 

When your ad is simple and straightforward, there is a better chance of your message being delivered to the intended audience. In the smartphone segment, this means, selling the most sophisticated piece of technology to people who might not necessarily understand the tech that powers the product. So, it’s a brand’s responsibility to simplify the idea, and the capabilities of the product so as to help customers understand how it solves their problems. 

Google missed its mark when it introduced Nexus Q. Take a look at the below video keeping in mind that the device was launched a decade ago. That was a period when people were not used to asking Alexa to place an order or play a song. The concept of smart media players was still not clear and the ad does not do anything to simplify that idea. 

Now take a look at the introductory video for Google Pixel. Can you see the difference? 

Here are a few reasons why this Google Pixel video is so much better than the Google Nexus Q introductory video. 

  • The opening frame throws the spotlight on the product – so you instantly know what’s being advertised. Therefore, people can instantly figure out whether the ad is relevant to them. 
  • It highlights features that matter. Looks, durability, display quality, and battery life are a few things people compare while purchasing a smartphone. The video covers all these details. 
  • The video is short and on-point. It establishes all the unique selling points of the phone within a minute. 

That’s the perfect recipe for a great ad. Naturally, it helped launch the first Google Pixel phone in a competitive market. 

2. Dare to experiment with new ideas 

The fact that Google is going all in with its Google Pixel brand marketing is clear from the below video. The format of the video, the length of the video, and its delivery are not typical of a smartphone ad. And yet somehow it works. 

The video subtly takes a dig at itself (especially about the length of the video). At the same time, it surprisingly manages to deliver the intended idea of giving a demonstration of how to switch to a new Google Pixel device. And the best part is that the video manages to tastefully joke about the kind of stress that comes with switching to a new smartphone and successfully transferring all data and setting up the new device. 

In short, the video achieves its goal but with a very unique presentation. One that’s hard to forget! 

Kimp Tip: The above video worked because the idea was to create something relaxing and reflective and the video achieve achieves that perfectly. All thanks to the calming voiceover, mediative visuals, and seamless transitions and animations. Every single piece of the design puzzle fits perfectly to achieve the intended results. 

That’s your cue to create ad designs where the elements harmoniously work to evoke the intended emotions. Need help doing that? Work with the Kimp team

3. Paying attention to the little things 

The #SeenOnPixel campaign is one of the most heartwarming ads for Google Pixel. Instead of simply telling that the new phone comes with a great camera or that the camera can capture portraits really well, Google went on to focus on one little detail that has been lacking in camera technology. 

The fact that most cameras don’t do justice to darker skin tones is something that most people don’t talk about. Google took this idea and created the most beautiful campaign highlighting the Real Tone feature on the Google Pixel smartphone. And the result was this beautiful and memorable ad. 

What’s the marketing takeaway from this ad? Create ads that speak what your customers want to hear. The hardware adjustments that Google made to achieve Real Tone will make a fancy message in an ad. They might also make the brand look more sophisticated. But will they resonate with the audience as much as the above ad did? Not at all. 

The above ad breaks down the idea and clearly tells the difference the new feature makes. It communicates how the new feature solves a common problem several users face with camera technology. And that’s how an ad should be. Rather than complicating the idea, give your customers the simplest explanation of how your product solves their problem and your ad works. 

4. Inclusivity delivered in the most authentic way 

Google’s approach to branding the Pixel line has been solid. Most of the campaigns have been purpose-driven and that’s one reason why several of them have received raved reviews online. One such campaign that became very popular on social media is the ad for Google Pixel 6 featuring Simu Liu. 

The ad was entirely in Mandarin. So, was it aired in China? No, that’s what makes this ad special. The ad was aired in Canada and it was in Mandarin! 

A few reasons why Google went with this approach: 

  • Mandarin happens to be the 3rd most spoken language in Canada and yet not many brands target the huge Chinese population in the country. Google’s ad was a way to fill this gap. 
  • One of the prime aspects highlighted in the campaign was the Live Translate feature on Google Pixel 6. So, the ad captures the idea of how the phone can instantly translate content making conversations more convenient. 

As you can see from the ad, both these ideas are brilliantly incorporated resulting in an inclusive campaign that connects well with the audience. 

When you open up to embrace the individual communities that are often left out in most discussions, it’s not just that targeted community that appreciates your efforts but also the rest of your audience. Because consumers, in general, love it when brands are more inclusive in their approach. As a matter of fact, nearly 59% of consumers tend to be loyal to brands that take inclusion and diversity seriously. 

Did the inclusive marketing approach work for the Google Pixel brand? Of course, it did! According to Google, the ad recorded 99% positive sentiment on Twitter and drove a 136% increase in Pixel sales.

5. Adding a fun element 

As you can see, Google Pixel ads over the years have been evolving in terms of the emotions they touch upon. They have been carefully curated to connect with very specific demographics. The most recent one for Google Pixel follows the old formula of keeping things straightforward and emotionally stimulating but the difference is that the ad’s fun side. 

Instead of keeping things too serious, the ad talks about the many things you can do with the Magic Eraser, one of the most talked-about features on Google Pixel 7. From correcting funny photobombs to fixing bad photos with Unblur, the ad showcases a lot of cool image editing functions on the smartphone. It gets funnier when Amy Schumer enters the frame. 

Data shows that about 90% of consumers who have ever clicked a photo have taken it on a smartphone. People are always on the lookout for better pictures and these Google Pixel features seem to deliver just that. And the ad conveys this message in the most effective way. 

A Kimp subscription to execute those Google Pixel inspired marketing campaigns 

If you ask if Google is like the Apple of Android, well, there’s still room for growth and it’s too early to tell. Especially considering that it’s competing with the likes of Samsung which launched its first mobile device in 1988! But why compare Apples and oranges, right? 

Google Pixel has definitely carved a strong place for itself. Moreover, the promising hardware and software capabilities that the brand has been bringing into its devices open the doors to new possibilities for the brand. All of these make more sense to consumers thanks to the clever campaigns from the brand. The strong visuals in these campaigns have helped preserve the messages in them. Working with a designated design team can give your brand that benefit. 

Register now for a free 7-day trial of Kimp and see how a design subscription simplifies your marketing design workflow.