Content Marketing

Google’s New Storytelling Tool Will Get Your Geography Teacher All Hot And Bothered

Few objects pull at the imagination like a spinning globe, its contours and boundaries conjuring adventures near and far. Since 2005, though, digital natives have grown accustomed to a new kind of globe — Google Earth, a platform that allows users to hold every corner of the planet at their fingertips.

With the launch of Tour Builder, Google Earth has become not only a source of inspiration, but a storytelling platform in its own right. The new feature allows users to craft narratives by embedding photos, videos, and text into any place imaginable — from Newark, New Jersey to Diagon Alley.

As seen below, Earth Tours can be viewed within the browser (with a plug-in), and allows for the easy annotation of physical spaces with media.


The possibilities for brands aren’t hard to imagine, in part because Google Earth and Google Maps have collaborated with brands in the past to create unique stories. Now that Tour Builder is opening up those storytelling possibilities to everyone, those past custom campaigns will serve as dynamic examples for how brands can take advantage of the tool:

In July, Warner Bros created a Google Street View version of Harry Potter‘s Diagon Alley.


Adidas promoted the World Cup with a flyover exploration game that took fans to soccer stars’ hometowns.


Discovery Channel famously added extensive video to Google Earth, which included pre-roll.


It’s not hard to see why brands are having so much fun on this platform. For one, the potential user base is huge. Google Earth is indeed a niche product with infrequent use cases, but it surpassed one billion downloads over two years ago.

Tour Builder also has a lot of value as a news gathering and visualization tool. In past years, CNN and the New York Times partnered with Google Earth to use it to present places in the world in new and wondrous ways. They’re also sources of great (and odd) discoveries.

It can also be used for closing perceived distances and bringing people together. In fact, Google created Tour Builder to make it easier for veterans and service people to tell their stories to their loved ones back home. As Google says on its blog announcement:

  • So we thought it might be useful to make a very simple storytelling tool. One hallway conversation led to a joint project between the Google Creative Lab and Google Earth Outreach, and today, in honor of Veterans Day, we’re excited to share Tour Builder—a simple tool for recording and sharing stories on a map.

While Tour Builder offers tons of possibilities, brands can dive into the Google Earth even deeper by tapping into the platform’s native API. Most developers should be comfortable using it.


It’s an exciting time: Brands are learning how to become great storytellers, and new ways to tell stories are emerging every day.

What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.

Image by The University of Iowa Libraries /

Get better at your job right now.

Read our monthly newsletter to master content marketing. It’s made for marketers, creators, and everyone in between.

Trending stories