Mobile Pay, Smart Speaker Brand Confusion Means No Winners

Google Pay launched last week, becoming the latest entry in the world of master-brand confusion. The new Google Pay combines features of Android Pay and Google Wallet, brands that each had different brand relationships with customers. That means the master brand message, which should be simple and clean, and which Google should have been building all along, is shaky at best.

Apple Pay launched several years ago, and while it has seen growth, it has not been embraced as rapidly as the company had hoped.

At the same time, competitors including Samsung Pay and Amazon Pay have been giving them a run for their money. So, what can we expect this new mobile pay space to look like going forward, and who will lead it?

E-Commerce Transformation

The entire e-commerce space will continue to grow and change. Mobile payment systems have been around and have been growing for years. This is a rapidly changing space, and all it will take is a breakthrough idea to capture consumer interest and lead.

A variety of new mobile payment options have entered the marketplace and have been competing for dominance. None can be called a winner yet. None has created the brand relationship customers enjoy with their iPhone or Android smartphones.

More Brand Confusion

Although Google has combined the best features of its mobile payment systems in its unified Google Pay offering, what it really needs to do is create and build a solid brand relationship with the customer.

No competitor has done that yet.

Imagine this mobile pay space were the tissue industry. If that were the case, there would not yet be a Kleenex brand. That kind of brand identification should be the goal of every company moving into this new space. However, that has not happened.

Changing names and brand recognition — as Google did with Google Pay — is not good. Hopefully, it will stick to this brand, so it can build the customer relationship. Brand changes are not helpful.

Google Home vs. Amazon Echo

To confuse matters even more, it’s likely Google plans to extend the Google Pay service beyond the smartphone space to work with its Google Home device, which competes with a growing number of competitors, including Amazon Echo. The Google Home speaker is powered by AI software called “Google Assistant.”

Google is not the only company suffering from brand confusion. Amazon has the same problem. There are too many devices and technologies under each master brand. Each has its own name. Amazon speakers are chiefly known as “Echo” devices, but there are several models with different names. The AI software that powers them is “Alexa.”

As more AI devices and technologies enter the market, the mobile pay space could see incredible growth. However, the current branding approaches result in confusion. Most customers are not tech experts, and they don’t want to be.

Alexa, Meet Echo

Amazon and Google should create brands that stimulate users rather than confuse them. Both currently are suffering from brand confusion — perhaps more so than the companies realize — and confusion is death to brand building.

The brand and the master brand must be clear and solid. They should encompass something the customer understands and can relate to on an emotional level. Today, there is no product in the mobile pay space or the home speaker space that has made a strong emotional connection with the customer.

Both Google and Amazon need to simplify and focus their branding efforts with their mobile payment systems, their devices and their AI software. They need to adopt a master brand strategy. Either keep it simple or lose — my message is as simple as that. Is anybody listening?

Jeff Kagan

Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent analyst, consultant and speaker. Email Jeff.

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