November 05 2014

A Brand New You!

Posted by in Advertising, Design

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A Brand New You!

Every marketing course instructs its clients that branding is the key to success. Your brand is your corporate image; your brand is what you sell. But what happens when you try to shape and develop that brand?

All industries demand the survival of the fittest, and the best companies constantly adapt themselves to survive. Even brands like Aspall that pride themselves on traditional service and authentic products must successfully bolster this with sleek interactive websites, in order not to seem old fashioned.

In a competitive market the easiest way to seem out of touch is to look out of touch.

Besides some notable exceptions – Nationwide-come-Aviva – brand names stay fairly constant. It is the visual aspects of a company’s branding that is more easily changed, and with greater consequences.

The first port of call for many online companies is updating and redesigning the website. This is crucial as a means to distinguishing yourself as a modern and trustworthy organisation, thus retaining customer interest and increasing conversion rates.

A more extreme version of overhauling the face of your company is redesigning your logo.

A logo is a visual synopsis (or snapshot) of your company. Good logos are eye-catching, work in black and white, and somehow ‘match’ the overall brand image of the organisation. The best logos will also be drawn to last – universal enough to still be usable two years later.

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A brief history of logos...

Nonetheless, it’s not unusual to hone and develop a logo as time goes on. Even by examining the logo history of only five large companies, a trend for simplification can be identified. With increasing popularity, Shell, Starbucks, and Nike removed the names of their brands, Nike as early as 1995. BP and Pepsi transferred the lettering which had dominated the logo to the periphery, now in lower case.

The beauty of a logo like the Nike “swoosh” is that it is instantly-recognisable despite extreme simplicity. In contrast to BP’s £4.6 million expenditure on logo redesign, the designer of the original Nike “swoosh”, then college student Carol Richardson, charged only $35. Recognising her contribution to the company’s branding, Nike later rewarded with shares now estimated to be worth around half a million dollars.

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Google’s recent re-branding was received as somewhat of a joke. Their new logo moved the 'g' one pixel to the right, and the 'l' one pixel right and one down. The motivation behind this move is unknown, but what is remarkable about Google is the company’s constant commitment to re-branding as manifested in their infamous ‘doodles’.

The practice of doodling started in 1998 when the founders Larry and Sergey left an out-of-office note in the form of a doodle to signal their attendance of the Burning Man festival. From this moment doodling has grown, and what the company call their ‘expert team of doodlers’ have now created over 2,000 doodles.
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The images – often comic, often animated – vary greatly, but what is most extraordinary is the extent to which Google can stray from its established logo.

The first of these two recent examples was released on the 29th October 2014 to celebrate the birthday of the late French sculptor Niki se Saint Phalle. Google subtly retains the colour scheme of its letters while changing the font, style, and replacing three letters for Phalle’s famous dancing Nanas. The second example, which celebrates Argentina’s Independence Day (9th July), shows that Google can even represent itself without using any letters.

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 Recent Doodles

Google could be seen to be breaking the rules of maintaining a constant, recognisable image on which customers can hang their associations of the brand. But Google’s constant reinvention of itself plays into a central aspect of their marketing strategy. Not only do doodles demonstrate Google’s role as source of encyclopaedic knowledge, bringing to light the most obscure festivals, but Google brands itself as creative and inventive, recently ranking the world’s second most innovative company. While Google plays with its logo, it asserts a key aspect of the company’s ethos – innovation, creativity, playfulness.

Google could be said to be responding to a constant need to re-brand. Earlier this year, Simon Tutlett reported on the death of brands through ‘Genericide’ – a phenomenon that has already claimed the lives of Otis Elevator Co, King-Seeley Thermos Co., and which currently threatens Hoover, Tiffany & Co., and Wham-O (who own the Frisbee trademark). If a name becomes detached from a company and comes to represent the product itself, then a successful brand is rendered worthless.

Google has published its Rules for Proper Usage in a conscious attempt to stem the spread of ‘google’ as a verb. Whether the verb has yet spread to describing the use of other search engines is contestable, but perhaps Google is wise to closely guard its trademark. Part of this guarding process, is to stay constantly relevant, forever ahead of the field. Google’s doodling gimmicks demonstrates just this strategy – retaining loyalty through humour, and showing that the company continues to evolve.

Even companies that aren’t global corporate enterprises can copy some of these tactics. The most important lesson is that stasis is undesirable, particularly in digital and communications services. The second is that looks are everything, even if the look itself is flexibility.

 

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