Google Paints Your Portrait

January 23, 2018 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

Selfies are popular, to say the least. 

From duck face to selfie sticks, the selfie continues to reinvent itself throughout pop culture trends. 

Some selfies have even been so iconic that stars have published whole books about them (ahem, Kim Kardashian, we're looking at you). 


This aside, it's no question that selfies are well engrained within culture and that it's frequently used as a way to strike common ground with other people. Why not? Just lean in and snap a pic. 

Well, who would have thought that the entire selfie business may just be the thing that draws people closer to renowned works of art in galleries across the world? Google thought it would. 

From the Google Arts & Culture app comes its face match feature which teasers users with the question, "is your portrait in a museum?"

The ultimate selfie test. 

This is what captured our minutes this week. 

Here's why: 

1. This feature revitalized a 2-year-old app in the biggest way. 

The app originally launched in 2016. It still serves the same purpose: allowing people all over the world to be able to view artwork that they may not be able to travel to and see in person. 

That's a cool enough purpose on its own (not to mention smart). 

But now it's the top app in both the App Store and Google Play Store. 

Talk about staging a come back. Google not only built its brand awareness, but it gave people a new reason to use the app in a way that resonates with audiences everywhere. This upshot in brand awareness reminded people that there's a great app out there that can introduce them to content they might not normally get to see. 

And it made the simplest switch to achieve this: Google updated how people used the app. Now people don't just have access to art, they have a personal connection to it. 

The power of the selfie, everyone. 

2. People love customization (and themselves). 

Before you read this and think it's a condescending statement, it's not - it's just honest. 

From Netflix recommendations to Spotify playlist curations, audiences love customization. They seriously gobble it up, no matter how simple it is. 

Why? Because it makes them feel like the brand is speaking directly to them. 

3. It's the definition of "it's the small things that count." 

It's easy to get caught up in the strategy. In the minute details. 

And while all of that is hugely important, it also opens the door for creators to get stuck down a vacuum, swirling out of control and losing point of the main idea behind something. 

Google did the complete opposite of that and ended up making the original concepted product that much better. This is just a small reminder that sometimes the littlest changes hold the most impact. 

5. The app update challenges us to think about tech safety and privacy. 

For the record, and as reported by the Washington Post: 

Google says that the selfies are not being used to train machine learning programs, build a database of faces or for any other purpose. “Google is not using these selfies for anything other than art matches,” said Patrick Lenihan, a company spokesman.

The app only stores your photos for the time it takes to match you up with a work of art already in its database. 

That said, it goes without saying that people have to be a lot more mindful of tech. We'd be willing to bet that only a small majority was curious about where their selfies were going. Most have jumped onto the app and gladly snapped a picture of themselves to get a good laugh (or grimace at a horrific match). 

Going viral adds a complex level to the conversation of online safety and privacy. The speed at which content can blow up doesn't give us a chance to back track. The info is gone and we're not going to get it back. 

So, whether it's brands who need to be more upfront about such safety concerns or consumers being more responsible (actually, it's just BOTH of these things), measures have to be put in place to ensure we can counteract the risk. 

Congrats to Google on creating an update that people actually want to know more about - people who update blindly, we're talking to you. 

At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.

What will win this week?

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