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Google Takes a Page from the Handbook of Bush League Branding Tactics
By: Andrew Davis
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In July of last year, in the midst of the frenzy around the launch of Google Plus, I wrote an article simply titled, “Google+ Will Fail.” A few articles on the topic had been published at the time, but most of the press surrounding Google’s latest foray into social media had been glowing — almost to the point of outright sycophancy.
 
A year later, G+ is still here. Of course, nobody (even me) expected otherwise. But, since then, Instagram has been sold to Facebook for $1 billion, games like Draw Something and Words With Friends have set the standard for mobile gaming, and Pinterest — not G+ — is the “next” major social networking site.
 
G+ may not have failed in the traditional sense (well, yet), but at this point, that’s merely a matter of semantics. G+ did not revolutionize social networking. It did not "kill" Facebook. It was all hype. And, now, it’s more frequently brought up as a joke than something to be taken seriously.
 
However, my prediction, and those of others during the same time, didn’t take genius-level skill to make. The fate of G+ was obvious. And, because their mistakes were so obvious is why Google’s recent redesign of the network is an embarrassing rookie move by the powerhouse brand.
 
Clearly, they still don’t get it.
 
Common rookie tactics to “save” struggling brands include things like changing a logo or hiring a celebrity spokesperson. Why? It’s easy to change a logo. And if you have the money, it’s not hard to hire a celebrity. But, it’s much harder to do the soul searching necessary to discover why the brand is failing, which is why this is rarely done when it is desperately needed.
 
JCPenney is a perfect example. On Feb. 27, 2011, the brand unveiled a new logo intended to convey a new, modern feel for the brand. Did it work for them? No, which is why they a year later they came out with yet another logo. Except, this time, the logo was in conjunction with a new ad campaign designed to promote the company’s brand realignment — something that was fatally lacking in 2011. "The new JCPenney logo, which combines the elements that have made JCPenney an enduring American brand, by evoking the nation's flag and JCPenney's commitment to treating customers Fair and Square,” the company said in a statement when launching its most recent logo.
 
It wasn’t just a superficial change. JCPenney was making a substantial change to their business model in order to define itself in the department store market.
 
The redesign of G+ is a move straight from the 2011 JCPenney Handbook of Bush League Branding Tactics. It screams rookie in every single way.
 
In the year that G+ has been around, Google has failed to address the reason why its social network is failing: It’s not any different from everything else that consumers already use.
 
“The reason Google+ will fail is that there is no reason; that is, no reason for consumers to leave Facebook,” reads my 2011 article. “There is nothing revolutionary about Google+. There is nothing worthwhile about it.”
 
Adding a cover photo and tweaking the aesthetics of the network doesn’t make up for the fact that in a social media realm where consumers are already struggling to keep up with Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Linkedin, G+ still doesn’t offer anything worth their attention.
 
Or, time.
 
Putting a new face on G+ is like a tree falling in the woods. If nobody is around to see it, does it really matter?
 
No. It doesn’t. And, social media consumers have made that abundantly clear.

   

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About the Author
Andrew Davis is a Charleston, SC-based creative services consultant to small businesses and non-profits. Follow him on Twitter here.
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