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I was recently asked by my boss to attend a free seminar being given at the Google Headquarters in NYC.  It was last minute and I didn’t exactly relish the need to stay in the city longer than necessary, but I had to take the opportunity.  Being a practitioner of Search Engine Optimization, I make my living dancing with Google and their algorithm, as I attempt to optimize sites for maximum exposure on the search engine.  Getting inside the “belly of the beast” was something I had to do, even if it was for a couple of hours.

The seminar itself was nonsense.  Microsoft and Google are starting to promote the concept of a “micro-moment” marketing strategy, you will likely hear that term in the coming years (I personally heard it about 500 times in the first 10 minutes of the seminar, enough to make my eyes glaze over), but in terms of valuable information or insight, the seminar contained none.  Nonetheless, the little time I spent in the building gave me some insight into the mind of the Google engineers and the culture of how they operate.

Getting up to excuse myself from the doldrums of the marketing speeches, I went to the nearby bathroom.  As I stared at the wall I found myself reading a sheet of paper that, well, was a bit technical, see for yourself:

Google Headquarters

I don’t know if you could make sense of it on the first read, but I sure couldn’t.  It took me about 3 times reading it through to start to understand what the heck this sign in the men’s room was trying to say.

Essentially (I believe) it is a service that helps the Googlers keep track of the performance of their systems, and if it drops below a certain level, they are alerted.  Seems like a strange thing to put in a bathroom, no?  I think it speaks to a culture of creativity and innovation.  Let me explain a bit…

In order to truly stay competitive in any business landscape, and remain a market leader, innovation is the key.  If you follow textbook examples and protocols, you will only rise to the level of the status quo (if you are lucky).  Breaking the mold and attempting new ideas and methods that have never been documented before allows a company (and an individual) to potentially break through the status quo and rise to the level of a true market leader and innovator.

How does posting a technical document in the Men’s Room help with this?  Well, it may or may not help with anything, but the key point is that they are trying something new.  It may fail, it may succeed, but that is somewhat irrelevant.  They tried something innovative and saw if it worked or not.  In this case, it was classic marketing:

  • High traffic area/targeted audience – All the men on this floor will see this “ad” at some point during the day.
  • Making use of “downtime” – “Productivity on the potty,” they are able to squeeze a few more seconds of brain power and thinking out of their employees, turning a previously passive activity into an opportunity to think about a given problem.
  • Call to Action and Feedback/Sentiment Analysis – They have links at the bottom of the document to either provide positive or negative feedback.

Google is no stranger to creativity, “Google Labs,” now defunct, was a project devoted entirely to innovations and new products.  Most of them failed, but again, that’s not the point.  The point is they tried something new.  This thinking-outside-the-box concept is something that I’m sure is ingrained into the culture of Google, and this was apparent within 15 minutes of being at their workplace here in NYC.

I left the building, unimpressed by the actual seminar I attended, but thinking deeply about the concepts of creativity and excellence.  Google holds a firm grip on the modern economy, and they achieved this through academic and technical innovation, the sort that they try to reinforce by the atmosphere and culture of their offices.  Their headquarters hold a sort of rarefied air, for me, anyway, and it left my excited to continue my education and growth as a student of data science, and antsy to pursue my Master’s in Data Analytics here at SPS.

Michael is currently pursuing his Bachelors of Science in Information Systems and plans on pursuing a Master Degree in Data Analytics from CUNY SPS after graduation this spring. He’s worked in the Internet Marketing sector for nearly 7 years and specialize in Search Engine Optimization. 


One of the liveliest Discussion Boards this semester in my ECO course was “What about all my stuff?” It concerned supply and demand, why we buy goods and services, the satisfaction derived from those goods and services and whether the owner of the greatest amount of stuff is the winner. Is happiness determined by who has the most, or who needs the least? More than a few people pointed out that all the stuff requires a place, even to the point of renting a storage unit. We discussed when is it enough, what drives us to buy so much and the role of marketing in our decision-making process.

Throughout the semester, the Marketing Discussion Board questions took on many of the same issues. Does marketing help us to make choices or are so many choices created to drive consumerism? Is marketing about satisfying needs and wants, or does it create what we think we need and want? When does it become out of control or greedy?

This brings us to Glee. I admit that Glee is one of my guilty pleasures. Each episode is a morality tale enveloped in great song and dance routines. The 12/13/11 show was about the true meaning of Christmas, and it is not Santa, expensive gifts and excessive consumption.

As you celebrate this holiday season (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, Solstice, Festivus, or any other significant day in your winter calendar), why not take the opportunity to reflect on what is important? Gifts and toys are nice to give and receive, especially for young children. Yes, your daughter wants an iPad and your son wants an iPhone. Your grandchild really wants an Xbox. Do they need ten other things as well? Should you overextend your credit?  Are you comfortable or able to spend so much money?

Perhaps you can give some gifts to your loved ones and donate one or two to a local charity? Maybe, instead of more stuff, you can give the gift of time or experience to your spouse, significant other or parent. Go to a cozy B&B for the weekend; take your mother to a nice show; clean your grandmother’s garage; take your child to a sporting event. For the person who truly has everything, make a donation to his or her favorite charity or cause.  If the economy has hit you hard, you are getting by or you are doing well, the gift of yourself is priceless.

When I was PTA president, we started a book donation program to the school library in honor of a special person. The librarian gave us a wish list, and we suggested that parents donate the book in a teacher’s name instead of giving a holiday or end of year gift. A fancy bookplate identified the honoree. Despite Kindle, Nook and the iPad, a real book still makes a nice gift but there are many other options. I am sure local community centers and programs have wish lists of their own.

This post is by no means a Bah, Humbug to the holiday season. It is a suggestion to take a deep breath and not be caught up in the gimme frenzy. You have control, not the marketers!

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and peaceful end of 2011 and start of 2012.