Utility nation, you’ve been there. A radical reorg, an identity crisis, a changing set of demands, a niggling feeling that your legacy is both your strength and your albatross. And now you’re wondering: Is it time for a rebrand?

You’re not alone. Both Google and the island nation of New Zealand are rebranding in response to customer requirements and populous input. In part one of our two-part series on rebranding, we’ll talk about Google’s new look and feel, the motivations behind the brand overhaul, and how Google’s approach can inform your branding considerations.

A couple weeks ago, Google became part of Alphabet in a massive reorganization. And then (then!) the company’s delightfully bookish logo shed its serifs for a streamlined new look whose resemblance to the Party City logo is a little too close for comfort for some people (including a CNN tech reporter). Dropping serifs isn’t child’s play. Anyone remember the whole Gap Inc. debacle? I know; it’s a lot to handle. But ...

Google unveils its new logo (Source: Google Doodles)

Animated GIF file that shows an extended hand erasing the old Google logo and writing the new one

CNN report Heather Kelly tweeted about the similarities between Google’s new logo and Party City’s logo

Image of a tweet where CNN reporter Heather Kelly comments on the Google logo looking similar to the Party City logo

Google has its reasons, and they’re purportedly about providing us with a better customer experience. The company is betting we’ll all get over the hubbub and, instead, laud brands that take Google’s lead. The Google blog, excerpted below, gives us a little insight into its rationale and why we should just take a deep breath and be excited for what’s coming next.

So why are we doing this now? Once upon a time, Google was one destination that you reached from one device: a desktop PC. These days, people interact with Google products across many different platforms, apps and devices—sometimes all in a single day. You expect Google to help you whenever and wherever you need it, whether it’s on your mobile phone, TV, watch, the dashboard in your car, and yes, even a desktop!

Today we’re introducing a new logo and identity family that ... shows you when the Google magic is working for you, even on the tiniest screens. As you’ll see, we’ve taken the Google logo and branding, which were originally built for a single desktop browser page, and updated them for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices and different kinds of inputs (such as tap, type and talk).

What makes this easy to swallow? For one, Google is communicating not just that the change happened, but why. We, the users, are in on it, and the reasons aren’t dressed up in hyperbole; rather, they’re clearly explained and are so commonsense that it’s easy to get behind them.

Second, Google’s motivations for the change and the future they imply are consistent with the vision and company personality we’ve come to know, the kind of workplace we hear about from Google employees, and the expansive leadership that’s making it happen. It’s inspiring, but still plausible and personally relevant.

It’s not about serifs; it’s about a brand mark that’s built for a future Google will make possible.

Wait. Think about that. Yes, Google changed its logo to better fit a varied digital-device world, but what’s the real story? The company removed serifs (we’re talking aggrandized font squiggles, folks), and what are we talking about as a result? The digital future and Google-enabled cars. Now that’s leveraging all the tools in your branding kit.

Imagine if you could remove the swoosh on your utility logo and get your customers thinking about a future powered by a company whose leadership and vision they trust, feel they knew, and would allow into facets of their lives that had up until now been seen as deeply personal or tied to their individual freedom.

Here are some lessons we can take away from Google’s recent rebranding adventure:

  • Let actual transformation drive the need for rebranding. If you’re rebranding because a corporate memo said it was time to do so, your rallying-cry stories will fall flat. Give customers compelling reasons for the brand disruption, and they’ll support the cause.
  • Put customer value first. If customers don’t see how your brand changes will benefit them, they won’t get on board.
  • Tap into your employee base to stay in touch with your customers’ real wants and needs. Nurturing an identity that reflects the good thinking of your employees keeps the rebranding story both grounded and energized in a way that feels genuine, plausible, and inspiring to customers. Google’s single-greatest asset is its workforce and the ingenuity they use to envision a highly functioning digital future. For more insights on how to engage employees in the rebranding process, check out our new report A Tale of Two Rebrandings: Tapping into Employee Engagement to Bring Brands to Life.
  • Tell a story that makes customers daydream. We’re not talking about seemingly hallucinogen-induced tales of a future your customers can’t imagine you pulling off. We’re talking about the kind of daydream stories that foster thoughts like, “I wonder what it would be like to drive by a neighborhood solar garden and know that a little of that star power is mine.”
  • Be a big thinker, not just a big talker; then, take the stage. Customers are looking for leadership, clarity, and a trusted guide toward the future. Developing that trust, and the customer experience track record that acts as its foundation, requires a different communication and leadership style. But once you’ve got that down, you have to be willing to put yourself out there as a leader in a way that captures customers’ imagination.

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Comments

Terrific post, Sarah. And yes, we have a bit of a swoosh in our logo too, having fallen vicitim to the great logo swoosh movement of the last decade or so! All to often organizations think the brand resides heavily in the logomark and color schemes etc., of the company. The reality is that the brand resides entirely IN THE GUT of the customer composed of their visceral emotional concept about the company (good or bad.) And that brand's foundation is based upon the business model of the company. If the business model is one that engenders a feeling of distrust then the business model must change. Such a change requires us, as you put it so concisely, " to be willing to put yourself out there as a leader in a way that captures customers’ imagination."

Thanks for your feedback, Matt. I couldn't agree with you more on the roots of brand. It's easy to get caught up in the flash of visual elements, and much harder to dig into true identity and customer experience that drive innovative, authentic brand storytelling. But, boy oh boy, when it clicks... it's a thing of beauty!