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Variations on a Theme

Friday, January 21st, 2011

The Google logo. I look forward to seeing what Google will cook up on Mother’s Day, Halloween, Martin Luther King Day, or even better, what they’ll teach me on obscure days like the anniversary of Dr. Suess’ birth (pictured).

There was a time, and some would still argue same, when playing with branding like this was a cardinal sin. “You don’t want to confuse the customers!” It was thought to dilute the message or worse.

Luckily today, most brands have finally realized that their consumers are smart, and are capable of ingesting, interpreting, understanding and identifying with what I call branding’s version of variations on a theme. In fact, by Google digging into culture,history, science (ie: life) and playing with its logo, they’ve actually demonstrated and enhanced the brand. Think about it. What do you do on Google? Search for stuff. If you’re looking for French Post-Impressionist painter, Paul Cezanne’s birthday (pictured) or other item, you can find it by typing it right into that little bar on Google.

Making a connection with culture and at the same time elevating your brand’s mission gives people something to talk about, take away and remember.

MailChimp, my preference in email marketing, has a lovable (at least to me) chimpanzee as their mascot of choice. While they don’t go as far as Google with their manipulation of the logo, they do have fun putting their monkey in different situations or styles that represent something that resonates with them as a company, and hopefully with their audience, too. Pictured is the one they did in tribute to A.A. Milne, the English author best known for Winnie-the-Pooh. By playing with their brand’s logo, they not only keep it fresh, but communicate the whimsy, the levity of the brand itself.

I encourage you to find out how you can use cultural references, whether historical, current or offbeat to better connect with your audience. BUT — yes, there’s a but — I implore you to know who you are and what your brand stands for first. The reason MailChimp and Google do this well is because they worked long and hard to both know what they wanted to portray as a brand, as well as, who the audience they wanted to reach were/are. Have fun, but have a reason, or you will in the end, confuse your customers and dilute your message.

What are the brands you see having fun with their image?

Tags: branding, Design, image, Logo
Posted in Advertising, Advice, brand, google, marketing | 4 Comments »