Chris Wright – Product Marketing Manager at Google

Chris Wright was born in Butte (that’s not meant to be funny), graduated from the University of Montana, and has been working at Google since 2003. He has worked on many projects at Google that span sales and marketing , and currently is a Product Marketing Manager working on Google Chrome.

In one of his first assignments, Chris spent 14 months in India growing the local team from a handful to a few hundred employees. (While there, he was cast in an Indian movie where he got to beat up the main character. The entire office attended the movie premiere.) Upon returning from India, Chris became involved with the free municipal WiFi network Google was developing for Mountain View, CA. Specifically, Chris Wright headed the development of the consumer support infrastructure and community outreach efforts (one of his community training seminars drew over 400 attendees).

Chris transitioned from sales to marketing in late 2006, where his first role was to improve Google’s online advertiser acquisition efforts in Asia (conversion rates went up by over 10% as a result of Wright’s  website optimization efforts). Most recently, Chris has been focused on marketing the Google Chrome web browser (he came on board the week that the product launched). Chris Wright currently is a Product Marketing Manager – managing the SEM and online media strategy for Google Chrome as well as the tracking/analytics efforts.

When not at work Chris can usually be found doing something musical involving drums or harmonica (he released a demo with San Francisco indie band Good People in 2007). He also enjoys the outdoors, spending time with his lovely wife Natasha, and eating pizza.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working to promote the Google web browser, Chrome, which is quite a challenge. Not many people know what a browser is, let alone the difference one browser can make over another. If you think about it, the vast majority of time you spend on your computer is spent online (for me it’s probably over 95%). This means the vast majority of your time is spent inside a web browser, which makes the browser a pretty important piece of software on your computer. A browser’s job is to load content – maybe it’s a web page, or a web application (like GMail or Pandora). If the browser does a better job at delivering content (meaning it gets faster), web developers will be enabled to build more complex and beneficial online applications.

3 Trends that excite you?

Traditional media moves online: how digital distribution is reshaping content

  • Print: newspapers struggle as subscriptions drop and readership moves online; craigslist single-handedly took out the need for anyone to place a classified ad (which was 20-40% of newspaper’s revenue).
  • Video: every month Americans consume more video online than the previous month; the shows they do watch on their televisions frequently include a DVR experience allowing them to ‘skip’ the ads.
    • Netflix wiped out the need for video rental stores, and now offers thousands of titles online (which begs the question – why do we need a physical disc to watch a movie in the first place?)
  • Music: <sigh> I’ve been waiting on the music industry for a long time. Sure there are sites like Pandora, Lala, Lastfm and Spotify is making waves in Europe. However, what I (and other music fans) really want is that ubiquitous experience to listen to any song in existence without paying $0.99 cents per download. Bonus points to the site that will allow me to create a play list to share with my friends at no cost.

Online marketing gets smarter: web analytics & unique targeting options aim to deliver the perfect advertising platform

  • In the late 90’s the most common form of online advertisement was the ‘pop-up’ ad – a horrendous experience that thrust a large window in front of the user forcing them to manually close the window. Well, the industry has made progress since then.
  • Five to seven years ago web analytics and conversion tracking mechanisms empowered online marketers, providing them visibility to how a purchaser found the product they were promoting.
    • This would eventually grow into the ability to follow a consumer through the purchase cycle, optimizing the funnel to improve conversion rates and eliminate roadblocks preventing the user from purchasing.
    • Website optimization was a natural counterpart – did consumers prefer to see ‘Free shipping’ for your product, ‘20% off’ or both? It became easy to answer these questions through free tools.
  • However, there has been one challenge the online marketing industry has struggled to address and quantify – what is the value of branded advertising on the Internet? How valuable is it for a person to see my banner ad even when they do not act on it?
    • For example, imagine you are selling Toyota Tacomas. You run a banner ad campaign and 1 million people see your banner ad. Was it successful? Did people go to the dealership? These are tough questions to answer.
    • The industry is trying harder to measure and track these impressions. In the past impressions were left aside, while the ad clicks and conversion metrics received the vast majority of a marketer’s attention. The attitude was, ‘Sure impressions are valuable, but I’m not sure how valuable, so why not focus on clicks and conversions.’  – This sentiment is changing and we’re just at the beginning.

Everything gets faster: your computer, Internet service provider & your web browser

  • Truth #1: every year the web browser you use becomes faster (the browser developers get better – so do website creators) – this will continue to happen.
  • Truth #2: Internet connection speeds will keep getting faster
    • At the same time storage becomes cheaper, a trend that will continue.  Think of any storage device – from your hard drive, to an external hard drive, thumb drive, or even digital camera memory card – whatever you were able to purchase for $20 dollars three years ago now gets you X times as much storage.
    • What does this mean? Not sure, but it’s awesome – imagine what web developers could do if no one ever waited for the page to load because the experience was that fast. I can’t wait.

How do you bring ideas to life?

On any given day I have a lot of random, and sometimes less random ideas. Classifying and prioritizing them can be challenge; my process is typically:

  • First, I sleep on the idea and see if it still makes sense in the morning
  • Then I’ll take one small step in the direction of the idea (which could just be bouncing the idea off a colleague)
  • Next I’ll create/propose an experiment – like testing a hypothesis. This is usually the easiest way to try something with minimal risk (in dollars or time).
    • Using the internet to run small experiments is such a great/efficient means of gathering consumer research
    • In the past you may have had to stand inside a store asking consumers to fill out a survey, or hire a company to call them at home to ask questions, or (fill in any other expensive irritating means of getting information from a person).
    • By using your existing website traffic you can literally measure what your user base likes/dislikes thus improving your product offering. It has never been easier to run a small A/B test to see what works – take advantage of this!
  • Lastly, if results are positive I’ll propose a plan to scale to a larger audience or new market.

The most important part of this process is being able to measure the results. The worst outcome for an idea is not that it failed – it’s when you complete your idea and have no idea if it performed as expected, so your results are inconclusive. Being able to definitively say ‘This didn’t work and we shouldn’t try anything like this again’ is equally valuable to identifying an idea with tremendous success.

How can I capture the value created by my idea or innovation?

IdeaMensch features people with good ideas. The counterpart to having a great idea, however, is how you capture the value of your idea.

There are many examples of companies or individuals who create a tremendous amount of value in their innovation, but who struggle to capture that value. Think of TiVo – amazing idea, great product, but when I go to “TiVo” American Idol tonight I’ll be doing so through my Comcast DVR (digital video recording) device. Why? Because Comcast provides my cable TV and the price point for DVR was low. It was convenient.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that consumers will hunt out and search for your product/service. Yes, your product may be a little better, but it doesn’t matter. Convenience is king. Imagine your big idea as living on an island all by itself. The consumer market you’re after lives on another island, so you need a bridge to get your idea to your market so that you can capture its value. You can think of this as distribution or your media plan, and it’s important. In many cases your initial idea is the easy part.

Too often, great ideas get lost or fade away because the only distribution/communication effort made was to create a website. Spend time creating a comprehensive plan; think of co-marketing opportunities or distribution partners you can leverage. Good luck!

Aside from music and online marketing, what other interests do you have?

I’m continually interested in nutrition and fitness to a large extent and do my best to prioritize exercise when possible (hiking, biking, or just some time in the gym). We have yet to see technology make a material difference in the way people approach diet and exercise, and I wonder if this will ever change. In the last couple of years, health awareness from a national standpoint has consisted of restaurants posting nutrition facts and labeling the Transfats. I wonder if there are more interesting solutions/executions out there? If physical and mental health and well-being were prioritized and optimized at a national level, what would that experience look/feel like? How would technology be involved? It’s interesting to consider.


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Good People CD on Amazon