Pieces of the (Brand Identity) Whole
As you may have noticed by now, Google recently redesigned its logo. The logo itself has been critiqued, reviewed, “fixed”, praised, and admonished at great length across the design industry and mainstream news alike. The general consensus seems to be that, while the new logo lacks a certain level of refinement and polish, the overall look is sound and was skillfully crafted with good intentions.
Extensive criticism and praise aside, more interesting to me than the logo itself is the corresponding identity system that Google created to extend their new brand across their entire range of products, platforms and services. In their own words:
“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).”
While any single individual piece of the system may be lacking, the sheer breadth of the identity package is admirable for its clarity and consistency. The harmony of color and type across every individual touchpoint in Google’s catalog is impressive from a strictly logistical perspective.
So what are the key takeaways here? What can a small business learn from the rebranding of one of the world’s largest and most recognizable companies?
I think the big lesson is that your company’s identity isn’t built upon just one thing (like a logo); it’s an extension of every printed piece (business cards, direct mail, brochures), every digital touchpoint (website, social media), and even your facilities and employees.
Your potential customers won’t deem you trustworthy – no matter how awesome your logo is – if you have a reputation for terrible service. Conversely, even if they’ve heard great things about you, they might not get in touch if your website is hard to use (ever try to find a company’s phone number and give up after a few minutes of clicking? Yeah, me too).
Every individual piece of your company identity needs to be considered in creating your desired overall brand experience. That might sound overwhelming and maybe even a little intimidating. “But I don’t have the budget/time/resources to do a comprehensive, high-level branding project like Google!” you might be thinking. That’s okay! It IS an intimidating prospect, but the good news is you don’t have to do it alone.
At Cassel Bear, we sometimes conduct an exercise called an Identity Quadrant. It helps us understand who a company, business, or nonprofit is at its core. What are its values? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Once we understand exactly who a client is, we’ll examine existing marketing materials and often find a mixed bag. Some pieces might express the client’s identity perfectly while others are a little (or a lot!) off the mark. Evaluating each piece individually, as well as against the overall brand, helps us pinpoint and prioritize specific areas on which to focus our work. By breaking the overall identity into smaller, manageable chunks, we’re able to help our clients reshape their image without the need for a comprehensive, Google-esque overhaul.
The other big lesson in the Google rebrand: if your overall brand identity is strong, and your messaging across all channels is clear and unified, any shortcomings in one particular area are less noticeable. Google’s new identity works so well not because each individual piece is amazing. Far from it. It works because they considered the bigger picture from the very beginning. While you might not have millions upon millions of brand touchpoints like Google does, anticipating future needs when designing a new piece of your identity helps instill a level of versatility and adaptability into your brand.
These broader connections between pieces can be tricky to execute, but when done well (as Google has) the outcome is a strong, cohesive, and ultimately successful brand identity.