In lieu of Google I/O 2020 (Google opted not to hold a virtual event this year), the various arms of the company that would have otherwise had announcements at the event are trying to hold virtual conferences. That continued this week with the “Hey Google” Smart Home Virtual Summit. The big news was Google bringing Home/Away triggers to Assistant Routines with ‘presence detection’, but another minor tidbit surfaced: a new “Works with Hey Google” brand we hadn’t seen yet. Let’s overanalyze this, shall we?
Up to now, consumer products on shelves that worked with the Google Assistant have always had the below “works with the Google Assistant” badge stamped on their retail box. At the “Hey Google” Smart Home Virtual Summit, Google predominantly referred to this brand as “Works with Hey Google” — which you might realize reflects the way the majority of users actually interact with the Google Assistant rather than the name of the assistant itself.
While there has yet to be a third-party retail product ship with the new badge (as far as we can tell), you can likely expect it to show up at some point in the coming months.
But all of this begs the question: Is Google rebranding the Google Assistant itself? As far as we can tell, the answer is “probably not” — for now, at least. Google representatives repeatedly used the Google Assistant moniker throughout its presentation this week, and since it’s a brand that has a lot of public recognition and one that developers have grown very accustomed to, it seems unlikely Google will move away from “Assistant” any time soon.
It does signal a slight shift in how it wants the public to perceive and think about the Google Assistant, however. If Google has decided to change its “Works with” brand from Google Assistant to Hey Google, there might be something about the latter that is more recognizable to consumers or conveys clearer what exactly it means for a product to “work with” Google’s smart assistant platform.
Here’s how the matrix looks for the top three smart home assistant platforms. As you can see, Amazon managed to score the most simple branding with Alexa being the name of the assistant, “Works with Alexa” for product badges, and simply “Alexa” for the hot word. Google’s “works with” brand now aligns with its hot word rather than the name of the assistant itself.
I’ve always found Google’s smart home/assistant branding to be the most confusing of the big three. Amazon and Apple both decided early on to give their services a human name, while Google opted for something that instead reflected its own branding. That was likely due to Google’s (seemingly correct) foresight that its “Hey Google” assistant would eventually replace users’ interactions with Google.com. That was the goal, wasn’t it?
Google is all about helpfulness, and they didn’t want people to forget that it was Google they were being helped by.
But that leaves the Google Assistant also feeling the most wonky and corporate to use. While Alexa and Siri easily allow you to pretend that you’re not interacting with the product of a multi-billion dollar tech giant, “Hey Google” won’t let you forget it. That’s a story for another day, though. (Oh, but it’s also one that apparently people resonate with because people are always looking for clever alternatives — that story drives a ton of traffic.)
While there’s no fundamental underlying rebrand, it feels to me like Google is leaning into “Hey Google” as the “proper noun” for its service — equivalent to Alexa or Siri. I think some other name would still make using Hey Google less mentally cumbersome, but if the company has to pick something to simplify (at least the public perception of) the Assistant brand, “Hey Google” makes more sense than “Google Assistant”.
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