Google: Constant Change Is the Brand Constant

May 022012

I posted this article last week and just had to update it with today’s (5/23/2012) Moog doodle:

Moog Google Doodle


Respect for the logo has been a key tenet of brand management for decades. Brands spend millions creating graphic standards and trademark usage guidelines (here’s an example), with careful processes and procedures that preserve the integrity of the logo and ensure that the brand is consistently and correctly used everywhere by everyone, whether it’s on a sign in Sri Lanka or a can in Columbia. I have a binder three inches thick devoted to the use of the GE logo with the Olympic rings. Some companies have “brand cops”–even “brand Nazis”–who ensure logo use always complies with brand standards.

Then there is Google.

Just yesterday, they changed their logo in 45 countries to celebrate Worker’s Day:

Google Workers Labor Day Logo Doodle


With the Google logo, nothing is sacred; not consistency, not recognizability, not even legibility. What is constant is charming, interactive engagement that gets tons and tons of press and buzz. People are still talking about the famous Les Paul tribute:


How does Google successfully flout brand management orthodoxy?

First, Google doesn’t use its logo as a billboard. Unlike a can of Coke, you don’t have to pick out Google search on a shelf. Its logo does not have to work to differentiate the brand in a loud and crowded marketplace. The Google home page is a place you go knowingly and deliberately. By the time you see the brand, your choice has already been made.

Second Google doesn’t need to use its logo to identify its search page product. The Google identity is conveyed as much by its streamlined page design as anything else. No matter that Google has grown into a complex organization; it has maintained one of the simplest home pages ever created: a search box surrounded by empty white space. In a sea of look-alike generic Web pages, you don’t need to see the Google logo to know you are on the Google home page.

Eadweard J. Muybridge's 182nd Birthday Google Doodle

Playing with the Google logo has morphed from mere whimsy to a powerful marketing too. Called “Doodles,” the Google logo morphs are described as “fun, surprising, and sometimes spontaneous”–exactly what the Google brand experience is. Doodles keep the Google brand connected to places, events, issues and feelings of their users and generate tons of positive press, not to mention water cooler chatter. They keep the brand topical and relevant in an endlessly fun way, or as Google says, “bring smiles to the faces of Google users around the world.”

That is not to say that a changing Google brand works everywhere. You’ll see the formal brand-managed logo on business cards, on non-search products, in investor meetings and every place where the brand is needed to identify, differentiate and get attention.

© 2014 Lisa Merriam