Why Google Under Alphabet Is a Bold Branding Move

In an unexpected shift this week, one of the tech sector's biggest brands opted to become a smaller part of its newly created parent company, Alphabet. Google, a brand whose name is now so synonymous with online search that it has become the go-to verb for that action, will effectively be a wing of Alphabet, with other less established business units, such as Fiber and Nest, being their own entities that report direct to Alphabet's executive team. As a concept this makes some sense, with the proven business models of Google being clearly delineated from the From a branding perspective, however, the move is extremely bold, perhaps even risky, despite Google's obvious resources and market dominance. [caption id="attachment_3942" align="aligncenter" width="500"]google 1-888-ohiocomp "Googling" popular vanity numbers[/caption]

A Bold Brand Move

Why bold? Well, as we've touched upon in our recent Build Your Brand series, a brand is all about clarity and vision. Although the Alphabet-Google decision is clearly driven by vision, its execution could sacrifice a lot of clarity for consumers. Almost everybody now knows Google as a search engine, that much is obvious. That it also owns Android, YouTube, the DoubleClick ad network and other familiar online properties is less widely known, but the connection is quickly made if you use the associated system, such as logging in to an Android smartphone with a Gmail account, or using Google credentials to set up a PPC advertising account. After that come the companies that Google has bought or built, like Nest connected home devices and its Fiber internet service. Anyone who follows technology news closely or lives in a market served by Fiber's lightning fast web connections is probably familiar with Google's ownership of these entities, but the average consumer has no idea. Brand confusion starts to creep in with Fiber especially, as it is a service proposition closely associated with the Google name but will actually come under the Alphabet banner moving forward. [caption id="attachment_4277" align="aligncenter" width="572"]ABC - Alphabet The ABC's of Branding - Image Credit: KVH[/caption] Beyond these down-to-earth business units Google also has its "moonshot" projects, like the self-driving cars of Google X and longevity research firm Calico. Again, all of these will come under Alphabet, which could be seen as divesting some of the excitement and innovation that we associate with the Google brand name. If those projects are now directed by Alphabet, is that the brand that consumers will associate with innovation Finally, there are practical considerations, especially when it comes to brand assets. It has quickly come to light that BMW owns alphabet.com and is unlikely to give it up, hence the less natural Alphabet URL of abc.xyz. Microsoft, no stranger itself to brand identity issues, made the most of this slip by redirecting abc.wtf to its Bing search engine. There will also be many other companies already called Alphabet, unlike the Google name, which the company defined on its own terms. None of these are insurmountable issues, especially for a company with the resources of Google/Alphabet, but the potential for confusion clearly shows that the company's founders believe in the restructuring concept of Alphabet deeply enough to face the brand challenges ahead.  

Rebranding a Behemoth

What this decision seems to come down to is the exception that proves the rule. Thanks to its sheer size and scale, Google can probably push through this reb Some of the branding lessons that this example reinforces include:
  • If you intend to add multiple layers to your business brand, the core brand must be firmly established and remain intact;
  • It takes a long-term commitment to build a brand. Google has been the market leader for many years, but it took more than a decade to define its core brand values of innovation and connecting technology to everyday life;
  • Experimental products and projects often find more initial success under their own brand identity. Android, which has only more recently taken on more familiar Google brand elements but was at one point considered its own gamble, is a clear example of this;
  • Without extensive resources and media interest, it's an enormous task to get the word out on a complicated rebranding initiative.
  If your business is considering adding new business unit, or products/services that stray away from the main business, it's important to revisit your core brand values and understand how your additions impact the foundation you have already built. We have no doubt that Google understands the importance of its brand and will bring all of its extensive resources to bear on defining its new organization, as well as maintaining its existing brand value. With that in mind, here's a suggestion: 1-844-4-ABCXYZ is a memorable number for consumers to call if they have questions about the new company!  

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