Google jumped five places in the Top 1000 Brands list this year, breaking into the hallowed Top 10 for the first time since 2011 and finishing in position seven.
The company emerges as Asia’s favourite search engine in all markets except China and South Korea, and it is also rated top for ‘digital experience’ in all markets except China (where consumers cited Apple) and India (Amazon). Outside search, Google Play is ranked the third top streaming entertainment site overall.
These results, plus a glance at the recent headlines about Google (see box below), all point to a company successfully engaged in expansion and innovation, pushing forward on all fronts in the region.
Indeed, in a recent interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific, Google’s APAC president Karim Temsamani concurred that the importance of the APAC region continues to grow. Global products are now being developed on the back of APAC user insights, he said: YouTube’s offline feature, for example, which was developed initially for India, is now being used worldwide.
Jacqueline Alexis Thng, a partner at Prophet, predicts that the company’s continuing ascent in Asia will see it reach the No. 1 position as the region’s most important brand before long.
“The future is all about AI and machine learning,” says Thng. “Machine learning is all about data, it's all about search. Google holds so much data that it will hold the future, whether we like it or not.”
While the brand is undoubtedly hugely popular with consumers, continues Thng, Google’s communications policy is also, she believes, a factor in its success. Google typically holds keynote speeches to announce all new products and services, meaning it keeps its offering accessible to businesses and users alike.
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The firm’s commitment to innovation is also a major contributor to the strength of its brand. Google has invested US$3.9 billion in Artificial Intelligence (AI), more by far than any other tech giant, according to research by RS Components. It has also acquired more AI startups than any other firm and is leading the way on voice recognition and search, thanks to Google Assistant. Its Alphabet sibling Waymo will—by most estimates—beat any other rival in launching driverless cars to the public, a move that, if successful, will truly take Google to stratospheric new heights, thinks Thng.
Of course, this path isn’t entirely uncluttered. Google is still banned in China and the government has recently performed increasing crackdowns on the VPNs that allow users to circumvent the ban. Elsewhere in Asia, for example in Vietnam, governments are starting to look into similar measures to put checks on the information Google provides.
Thng says this won’t stop the company. “I don't think it's going to get harder, it will get easier," she says. "One thing I know for sure that Google has done is it has been looking very hard in the last few years at China and working with the government to make sure that they get back their licence. I think I see a future whereby they will be in both Vietnam and China as long as they partner with the local government…Censorship is something these governments want and I think that if Google is able to work collaboratively with them in a way that still makes sure that information is still free, it will still allow them to have a play.”
Also high on Google’s wish list is cracking the mobile payments market. It is somewhat late to the party in this respect: Paypal, Visa, Mastercard and Alipay were at the top of the list as e-payment providers rated by Asian consumers in the Top 1000 Brands list this year, with Google Pay coming way down the list.
But while China and a couple of other markets are streets ahead with mobile payments, it is worth remembering that cash is still king in the majority of Asia countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, says Thng: this means that the battle for e-payments — and Google's Asia domination — is still wide open.