On Tuesday, Google announced its earnings for the final quarter of 2021. Like for many of its tech brethren, it was a very good quarter. Google reported record revenue of $75 billion, most of which came from the company's advertising business.
In fact, Google's advertising business is so good that the company loses money on everything else, but still managed to post one of the most profitable quarters of any company, ever. For the three months ending in December, Google made almost $21 billion in profit. That's one way to measure success.
It's certainly the one that most companies and investors use. It's why companies have earnings calls in the first place, to talk about what they sold and how much money they made. That's fine; companies certainly exist to make money.
On the company's earnings call with analysts, however, I was struck by a phrase Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai, used as he summarized its results.
Our deep investment in A.I. technologies continues to drive extraordinary and helpful experiences for people and businesses, across our most important products.
Without going too far into the weeds, Pichai was talking about how Google uses artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning to improve its products like Maps, YouTube, and Search. Pichai went on to spend several minutes talking about A.I., and how Google is advancing in that area, but that's not the interesting part.
Google says it exists to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." That's not something a human can do. It's not something your computer or smartphone can do. Instead, it requires massive amounts of dedicated machine learning and artificial intelligence to make sense of the vast amounts of information created every second.
All of that computing power is focused on one thing: helping Google deliver "extraordinary and helpful experiences."
The thing is, that's exactly why Google is so successful. Sure, in dollar terms, Google is successful because it's the world's largest advertising platform. But the reason it's the world's largest advertising platform is that billions of people find its services helpful. It adds value to their lives by making it easier for them to find information.
That's because Google, as much as any company, focuses on creating "extraordinary and helpful experiences."
Think, for a minute, about the number of Google services you use on a daily basis. Gmail is the default email service for both individuals and many small businesses. Google Search is where billions of people first access the internet. Google Maps is how people understand and navigate the world around them.
Google Maps is actually a great example. We rarely think of things as extraordinary once they become the default, but I can't think of a better word to describe all of the things you can do with Maps.
Not only can it tell you the best way to get from one place to another, but you can also actually explore your destination from within the app. When you consider the amount of effort that goes into mapping and then photographing most of the world around us, Street View is definitely extraordinary. That's what makes it so helpful.
I think that's actually a pretty compelling challenge for every business. If you think about it, your job is to do exactly that--create extraordinary and helpful experiences for your customers.
Even if you're not building the world's largest email service or the most widely used website on earth, you can still deliver something extraordinary. Often that's not just about building something better. Sometimes it's about the experience of buying or using your product or service. Sometimes it's about the small details that no one else would think about.
Creating something ordinary is not a competitive advantage. Extraordinary and helpful is the new default expectation among your customers. It's also the best way to define success.