My first grade daughter has been bringing a swim bag to camp most days this summer -- it was one of those tchotchkes that I got at an industry event. So last weekend she was getting ready to go to a swim birthday party and asked, "Mom, where's my Google bag?"
I stopped dead in my tracks and said, "Honey, it's a Yahoo! bag."
"Oh yeah, that's right. Well, do you know where it is?"
My daughter is your typical Silicon Valley kid who knows how to use the Internet, can type in URLs, and has heard me and my husband talk endlessly about companies like Google and Yahoo!. What struck me dumb was that even though she was carrying around this large purple swim bag emblazoned with Yahoo!'s name on it all summer, she thought it was her Google bag. It's incredible to me that the Google brand carries such weight that it became top of mind for my six year old.
Just to double check, I asked her later if she knew what the difference was between Google and Yahoo. "Yahoo! is the place where you go to play games (she uses Yahooligans)," while "Google is what shows up on your screen when something doesn't work." (Google is the default search engine on the kids' computer so it appears to the side of the Web browser when a page can't be found). My son (a second grader) chimed in that Google was good for finding stuff you needed to know about, while Yahoo! was the place you go to find pictures, play games, and check your email.
So while Yahoo! doesn't appear to be top of mind for my daughter, she definitely has a more positive opinion of Yahoo! than of Google. There's hope yet for Yahoo! to win the mind as well as the heart of my daughter.
What struck me is that my informal, anecdotal survey of my children closely mirrors the brand perception of the major portals. Hitwise recently published some data about the brand attributes of three major search engines – Google, Yahoo!, and MSN (collectively known as GYM). Hitwise took the top twenty search queries across all search engines that contained the name of these three sites to gauge their respective brand attributes. Hitwise GM Bill Tanner wrote:
Google's queries center on finding things, be that information, geographical location or multimedia content. This confirms what we've seen with our breakdown post, that Google, despite building some very attractive "portal-like" tools, maintains in consumers minds as a brand that helps you locate things.
Yahoo! in contrast, demonstrates a clear portal identity with well rounded interest on a variety of their channels or portal offerings. There is a clear difference when we compare Google's terms with Yahoo's... search versus engage in an activity or consume a specific type of content.
MSN queries are clearly distinct from both Google and Yahoo!, with their queries dominated by specific tools such as the new Messenger download, but also showing some portal characteristics with Music, Games and Money.
The data also shows how far Google still has to go to shed it’s one-trick pony image with consumers -- even though I believe they are starting to make progress in this area.