As a product, I don’t feel I can judge Google Wave accurately yet. As a (soft) launch, I feel very comfortable labeling it a failure.
It’s a failure for a few reasons, the first of these being that Google has never really done anything new before. And unsurprisingly, new is a hell of a lot harder than better.
Google search wasn’t new. Everyone knew what to do with a search box when they came across it. It was just better - better results, better algorithm, simpler design. GMail was similar - email was a defined entity, Google just let you have as much space as you wanted, then bridged the gap between email and IM with Gtalk. AdWords, though a new implementation, was just advertising automated and made relevant. This was not the first time people had seen a link that would take them to a product for offer. It was just more relevant. Better.
Google is very good at better. Wave, however, is new.
Creating something new also requires that you create a definition. The key issue that Wave has, is the lack of a one sentence answer for ‘what is it for’. The best response I’ve seen came from this post by Daniel Tenner, where the value of Wave as a collaborative tool for business uses was brought to light. Which would be great, if there was any conceivable way for that to be how Wave was going to be used at launch.
If I look at Wave as a tool for crafting a collaborative document, like a complex proposal, it definitely has a home in the work life of many people I know. But a private, invite only beta (the exact same launch strategy as Gmail, recall) is not going to create situations that benefit this use case.
Google’s complete lack of marketing strategy on this one is painful. And it answers the question that keeps coming up: Does a big company that generates buzz passively need marketing, or advertising, or PR?
Yes. It does. Because making something cool IS NOT ENOUGH, if you can’t get people to understand WHY it’s cool.
If I’d been in charge of the Wave launch? It would have launched in a private beta, but for entire startups. Let people who enjoy cutting edge collaboration technology figure out the ups and downs of the product. The same people who are using Google Docs as the main office productivity software would love to use this tool to do what it is apparently exciting for -- collaborative document creation.
The benefit to doing this? Startups of the type we’re discussing would happily talk about the good, and the bad, of the product. This feedback would allow Wave to turn into something useful, both as a service, and as a set of practices. Instead of a cute little video, Google could have actually sent HUMANS to explain why Wave was meaningful, so the handful of startups in the beta. Once they had it down, the knowledge, and the anticipation for a general release, would flow.
(This is the idea I had by myself, in ten minutes. I guarantee with a few people to bounce ideas off of, and a greater understanding of the technology myself, I could do better.)
Having never really done anything new before, Google assumed they could just release this into the wild, and it would catch on. All this tells you is that despite an army of geniuses, and despite a great track record in improving the math behind experiences, Google doesn’t understand marketing.
And that is why, every time the ‘is marketing/PR/advertising dead?’ meme pops up for another round, I will point to Google Wave, and suggest there is more to communications than being able to get people to look.
(from Attention Industry)