What brands can learn from Google’s identity evolution

I’m hugely relieved that Google has finally changed its brand identity after 16 years. I have often struggled when a client has asked why they should change their logo if Google hasn’t. Now I have solid ammunition to evangelise the case of brand identity change to stay relevant. And nothing like the endorsement of its importance from one of the world’s most iconic brands!

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The latest changes to Google’s brand identity are not the first since its inception, but this big change represents many key learnings for brands, especially those contemplating such a change themselves.

1. Your brand identity must be fit for purpose at every touchpoint

Today’s most agile brands constantly seek fresh ways to deliver their brand promise in new platforms, new channels, and with new audiences. Just think of Nike and all its innovations, from the FuelBand to the Nike Training Club app. As the brand goes from one platform to another across offline and online touchpoints, consistency is key. Google’s journey from a basic search tool on a web browser to an ubiquitous presence across screens of all shapes and sizes necessitated the brand reconsider how it was showing up at these various touchpoints. Google needed a coherent, consistent, and recognizable identity that would look fantastic from the smallest Android watch to the largest possible digital screen. Its identity had to maintain its integrity in high and low bandwidth scenarios. Continuous abstraction to the simplest core and flat design were the need of the hour.

2. As the experience of your brand evolves, so must your identity

Google is no longer just a search engine. Google Now has taken the brand into a whole new realm of artificial intelligence, as have other initiatives like voice powered search, Google Glass, and so on. We experience Google in many more ways than before. This calls for more than just a distinct logo but also distinct and recognizable visual language that is fluid enough to create variety yet differentiation at every touchpoint. Google has taken its recognizable four-colour identity and created much more ownability by creating a simple yet stunning identity system. From the powerful G of the favicon to the animated dots that let you know your voice search is happening, this is as much a creative decision as it is a strategic brand choice to unequivocally own these four colours.

3. Think two steps ahead

When you make an identity change, think of what the next (or the next few) evolutions might be like. See where Nike and Apple have take the swoosh and the apple. They are the ultimate shorthands for the ultimate brands. I can well see Google’s identity ultimately becoming just 4 coloured dots. Can you see where your identity will go next?

4. Stay resilient and focused on your objective despite resistance to change 

As you steer your brand through change, you will find resistance popping up in all quarters, both internally and externally. Once you have decided to change, stick with it. Many times, people are more resistant to the idea of change than the change itself. As long as you have solid business reason to change your identity, there’s no reason you should listen to the skeptics, nostalgists, and naysayers.


This blog was originally published by Impact magazine (September 2015).