Branding intelligence at Google

Google has a great experiment going in the domain of branding.  As everyone will have noticed by this time, the name "Google" now sometimes appears with a fanciful image, as if "Google" has been communing with Clio and the other gods of history, and comes away from these excursions with small bits of data still attached. 

To the right is the way Google adorned the company name to honor the memory of an Artic explorer who’s name now escapes me. 


To the left is the way they honored the memory of Diego Velazquez today.  I believe Velazquez was an early pioneer in the New York disco scene.  His brilliant exploration, Studio 53, proved to be a laboratory for many of the clubs that flourished in the 1970s. 

This is something more than playfulness.  One of the great challenges of the branding world is managing to sustain the brand’s deepest, most continuous messages even as the brand is kept fresh and responsive.

In the old "keep it simple" world of branding, the idea was to carve out a piece of consciousness in the mind of the consumer, to "own" a piece of mental "real estate."  And it was generally supposed that two rhetorical tools would serve: repetition and clarity.  And, yes, I think "shouting" was also called for.  The idea was to say it often, say it loudly and keep it simple.  Marketing’s mantra: we’re loud, we’re proud, get used to it.

But this approach seems a little tedious now.  As a respondent was telling me some weeks ago, brands that adopt the old approach,

"remind me of that blowhard at a party.  He just keeps talking, way too loud.  He won’t let anyone get a word in edgewise.  And he just says the same stuff over and over again.  Plus, he stares at all the girls.  I mean, really, this is the guy you want to avoid at all costs."

So the challenge is how to sustain the brand without undue repetition, and to introduce a small current of novelty without blurring the underlying message.  The present approach by Google seems to be to strike the balance nicely.  The brand marque becomes a zone where interesting things happen, even as the Google brand remains visible and continuous.

I have to say not all of these experiments are successful.  I find Diego Velazquez example a little murky.  Plus, who wants to be reminded of club owners anyhow?  I think there are more noble characters for Google to memorialize.  (How about a Spanish painter from the 17th century, possibly.)  In any case, hats off to a brand that is stepping up in response to the new challenges.

References

See the Clio entry in Wikipedia here.

See the Wikipedia entry for the real Diego Velazquez here.

7 thoughts on “Branding intelligence at Google”

  1. The explorer you’re thinking of was Robert Peary? He is a mention in “Ragtime” as well. The narrator’s father is invited on his famous trip to the North Pole.

  2. it’s worth noting MTV’s earlier work with the changeable logo; it’s the first one i recall encountering (which doesn’t mean it was * the* first, just the first one i remember) that was designed to accommodate a variety of colours, patterns, configurations, etc. a brief history of it, with some design samples can be found at: http://www.frankolinsky.com/mtvstory1.html

  3. it’s worth noting MTV’s earlier work with the changeable logo; it’s the first one i recall encountering (which doesn’t mean it was * the* first, just the first one i remember) that was designed to accommodate a variety of colours, patterns, configurations, etc. a brief history of it, with some design samples can be found at: http://www.frankolinsky.com/mtvstory1.html

  4. Perhaps you’re just being facetious and I’m not savvy, but I believe that first banner was to celebrate the first climb of Mount Everest by Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Sorry if I ruined the joke. 🙂

  5. I worked for a company that took the “yelling and shouting” approach when trying to appeal to a younger demographic. Needless to say, the shouting fell on deaf ears.

    As far as Google’s branding goes, I think they’re doing a good job. It passes the test of whether it’s recognizable and original.

  6. You know I love your stuff Grant, but imagery is a minuscule part of Google’s success formula in building its brand (a.k.a. branding). Instead, I would point to its unrelenting innovation and creation of customer value, like its recent jump into the health business with its Google Health site (www.google.com/health).

  7. For the last two days, I actually could not stop thinking about the same theme as you relate to here. Previously, Google was too obvious an example for me to realize it. It came to me the most vividly when I saw, all at once, the Futurama cartoons. What they did in this regard is absolutely unique – parodying different usual claims by which still delivering a strong message about their brand.
    I belive this hints at something quite novel with brands – brands attempting to gain relevance not just by demonstrating they can function as you need, not just offer you a new competence for life, not just according with you emotions… More. This way they show they can think in particular way.
    By that, I belive, brands can extend their licence to expand on all the lower levels of delivery – function, competence, emotions – whilst maintaining credibility.

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