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.
See the Clio entry in Wikipedia here.
See the Wikipedia entry for the real Diego Velazquez here.