Google received a bit of flack for its heavy-handed interaction with reporters over the use of Google as a verb, such as “to Google” oneself. Even Krane himself – and the former PR professional who requested anonymity – used the verb form. So I asked Krane what the PR department’s thoughts were on the matter.
“We certainly don’t impose that guidance within the communications function,” Krane said, adding that it was a legal department function. “The legal team is fairly public about what it does.”
He pointed out that the legal department was even a little humorous in its letters to media, requesting reporters to refrain from using the word. The Washington Post republished one in 2001, arguing verb use would lead to the “genericide” of the brand. The Post's text can be found below.
Google, however, goes the extra mile and provides a helpful list of appropriate and inappropriate uses of its name. To show how hip and down with the kids Google is, the company gets a little wacky with its examples. Here's one:
"Appropriate: He ego-surfs on the Google search engine to see if he's listed in the results.
Inappropriate: He googles himself."
But this one's our favorite:
"Appropriate: I ran a Google search to check out that guy from the party.
Inappropriate: I googled that hottie."
But how did Google get on the cusp of genericide? The former PR professional says the PR directive was to make the name Google a generic word, a contention Krane doesn’t disagree with.
“When the word Google automatically became a verb, which was not by any deliberate effort or investment we made, it started to open consumer doors and consumer interest in us,” Krane says. “There certainly was no deliberate campaign – there was no campaign [designed by a] clever ad agency from Venice, [CA] – to make Google a verb. We certainly had an objective that if information retrieval is the goal and the Internet was in arms reach, Google should be within the first thought if not the first thought that comes to mind.”