Google's Branding Innovation

Google's Branding Innovation
January 05, 2006
Google rewrites its moniker in Braille for Louis Braille's birthday; our panelists weigh in on the significance of such a branding technique.
Creative Notes
Google can take liberties with its branding, thanks to the fact that it is one of the best known search engines. On holidays it decorates its Google moniker with appropriately festive gear.

In this creative showcase, we examine a version of the Google homepage where the brand name is spelled out in Braille. Few can actually read what the Braille spells, but there's little danger of confusion. Google has carved out a unique, and well-known, space for itself in the online industry. It can take liberties that other brands might not.

In this showcase, we ask panelists to weigh in on why Google can play with its branding in these ways, and what other companies might learn from Google's example.

Campaign Details
Client: Google
Campaign Insight
Editor's Note
Creative Showcase is meant to be a teaching tool and an inspiration for our readers. We comment only on creative that we really love. Our panelists discuss what makes it great, but if they feel there were missed opportunities that would have made it better, we invite them to mention those. And finally, we seek out a wide range of opinions that reflect the marketplace for the panel, in order to provide constructive, useable feedback for agencies, clients and others involved in these creative pieces.
The Panel
Google’s Gumby-like logo is a reflection of three things:
  1. The company’s attitude toward fast innovation.
  2. The times, whether it’s to reflect Halloween celebrations, Earth Day or Korean Independence Day. The Google logo is something of a meta calendar.
  3. Its audience. Google’s logo is also a shape-shifting ambassador. The Braille version is a wonderful acknowledgement of an important audience.

That Google’s logo iterations look like folk art helps the big corporation look small, and small is the new big.

Sell your Google stock if it announces one day that it is “proudly introducing a new and vibrantly powerful logo that will transcend the brand into a new realm of technology prowess.”
-- Ben McConnell, Church of the Customer

When I opened my browser this morning, (Firefox, thankyouverymuch) my Google homepage seemed just a little wacky. I've grown accustomed to the Google corporate culture that allows for tweaking of its highly recognizable brand name and colors. I understand the free lunch and the foosball and the air hockey and the beanbags and the cutting-edge-of-hip world in which the Googlites operate and I sometimes actually ENJOY when they alert me to special days with a funny twist on their brand image. Often, I didn't know the day was special until I went to Google.

Over the Holidays all of us Google users saw a couple of wilderness varmints (or was that a cat and a mouse?) trying to hook up some festive lighting over the course of a few days. The New Year saw another cartoon rodent greeting the new day. (Beaver, maybe?) They've celebrated Einstein's birthday, the Anniversary of the Lunar Landing, Frank Lloyd Wright's Birthday, DaVinci's Birthday and even World Water Day. (Who knew?)

But today's Google logo tweak is a new one. All of their other "Holiday" creations have at least looked like the Google logo; maybe all green for St. Patrick's Day or a bouquet of roses standing in place of the first "O" on Valentine's Day.

Google's logo today is Google, spelled out in Braille, in honor of the birthday of Louis Braille, creator of the system used by blind and visually impaired people for reading and writing. "Google" in Braille looks nothing like the Google logo, and it was an interesting gamble on the part of the Google marketers to display their logo in this fashion. No doubt, I knew I was on the Google site when I saw the colors, and my first thought was "What the…?" I hovered over the logo to see what on earth Google could possibly be celebrating today. "Happy Birthday Louis Braille," said the alt image tag. I fairly groaned as I turned to my wife to show her what Google did to their logo. She is not as cynical as I am and found it "cool."

In my jaded head, I'm thinking, "Louis Braille has been dead for over 150 years, so to directly address him with birthday greetings seems a little silly." Maybe just "Louis Braille's Birthday" might've worked. "Secondly," I cynically say to myself, "Most Braille users likely aren't using the internet, so the point must be to alert those of us who aren't visually impaired to the wonders of Braille, though the recent movie 'Ray' certainly gave us a good start." But then my wife's cool must've rubbed off on me and I reasoned that Braille is a very noteworthy invention. It's a great system, and to watch someone read in Braille is a wondrous thing. It makes you appreciate the complexities and difficulties of life without sight.

If nothing else, Google caused me to go to Wikipedia and look up Louis Braille and learn a bit more about him. (He went blind at the age of four and developed the system that far surpassed other systems in place to enable blind people to read -- he died of tuberculosis at age 43.)

The folks at Google are always pushing the edge of what can be considered a day of consequence, and they frequently come up with some off-the-wall days. (Piet Mondrian's Birthday, Swiss National Day, Indian festival of color -- Holi.) Don't get me wrong, I am actually jealous of an art department that can have such fun and take such liberties with their own image while at the same time educating the public on little known anniversaries and events.

But at what point can you take your very familiar logo and completely alter it for a day? At what point can you throw your image out the window in an effort to foster awareness of one thing or another? At only one point: when you rule your industry and don't give a care in the world what other people think. I can make a fair assumption that the issue of displaying the Google logo in Braille was debated for a few minutes in Mountain View, and in the end, I can safely bet that someone said, "We can do what we want -- we're Google."
-- Dave Wilkie, creative director, Kinetic Results

Footnote: Submissions are judged by a panel of industry experts from and based on the following criteria: how the creative captures the specific customer; how it meets the brand's business needs; impact of execution; and creativity. If you would like your creative considered for Creative Showcase, send an email to creative@imediaconnection.com.
 

Comments