Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Snap brand judgements on Alphabet, Google's new holding company

Google announces a new holding company Alphabet, and both the corporate strategy and the brand itself are spot-on.

This week saw no brand news bigger than the announcement of Alphabet, a new holding company for Google, which will also house Nest, Calico and others, including venture capital firms. From the press release, this is the salient quote about branding:

We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha?bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for! I should add that we are not intending for this to be a big consumer brand with related products—the whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.

In one paragraph, we have insight into the genesis of the brand name, and its intended application. (If only others could be as concise.) And, of course, we have the Alphabet logo:

Alphabet logo

Three snap judgements

  1. Dissociating from “don’t be evil”

Since the mid-00s, Google has accrued a nasty stain to their once impeccable “don’t be evil” brand. Destructive privacy issues, the insidious and exhausting pattern of ad insertion, opening and closing new services without warning, Android interoperability, and the diminishing uniqueness of its search engine all create massive drag.

Despite blunt force brilliance in engineering (Gmail, Chrome, Google Maps, YouTube) and sensational R&D in big new ideas (self-driving cars), the damage is done. Google is seen for what it is. A technical powerhouse that will sell your information to the highest bidder. Literally. (As far back as 2005, the term “omnigooglization” has been used to describe American technical imperialism.)

This new holding company allows for so-far-untainted companies like Nest and Calico to safely dissociate from Google brand baggage. Which they, and their respective brand promises, deserve.

  1. The brand name evokes childhood

I like Larry’s above quote about the brand name, and its multi-layered meaning. But what I like most about the name is that it’s a single, approachable, real word instead of a fussy invented thing like “Altria” or “Allegis”. It’s a humble word we associate with our childhood, a thing of great importance that we learn so we can build even greater things. In a nutshell: brilliant.

  1. The design is beautifully boring

Simple, clean, unadorned. Exactly what’s needed. Good color, purposefully bland type with just a whiff of playfulness (love that lowercase “a”). Wired ran a breathless article interviewing Important People over the design and strategy, which feels a bit overkill, but hey — it’s all snap judgements lately.

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