Variations on a Theme

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

This entry was posted on Friday, January 21st, 2011 at 9:55 pm and is filed under Advertising, Advice, brand, google, marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Variations on a Theme”

  1. semkaa Says:

    January 21st, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Hi Janet,

    I too look forward to my google page for the variety in the logo!

    I think it’s easier to do with online brands or a brand can change up a logo for a product typically bought at a store at the brand’s website. Any product I buy in the store – I want to be able to scan the shelf and find the product easily. Actually – I bought a Pepsi Max in place of regular Pepsi the other day because max is so small on the bottle and located in an inconspicuos location – I’m irate that I have to spend that much more time at a gas station making sure I have regular Pepsi now 🙂

    But at the same time your article also reminded me of Coke’s special holiday bottles where you can get a six pack in glass bottles and Coke is written in Chinese, Arabic – etc. on the bottles but the outer packaging remained the same. And, Corn Flakes has been an example of changing their package by featuring different people on the box, but I can still find it like I’m able to find Time Magazine. I think Paul Newman’s brand would lend itself well to changing up designs slightly.

    To answer your question about having fun with a logo – I’d love to see Nike have some fun with the swish by changing up the tail :0 I might actually go out and buy a pair.

  2. janet wallace Says:

    January 22nd, 2011 at 11:24 am

    great examples. thanks for sharing!

  3. Taylor V Says:

    January 26th, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I really love this post. It’s a great example of how to have fun with your brand, and keep consumers talking about the changes. I really enjoy watching football games where the players wear throwback jerseys, or when TV shows go back to TV’s roots.

    Mountain Dew recently did throwback packaging.

  4. janet Says:

    January 26th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    YEs! The throwback stuff is so fun — Pepsi, Mountain Dew — bring it.

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