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Google: Now Brought to You by the Letter A

Most corporate rebrands are protracted, public affairs. They start with the appointment of a specialist agency leading to endless speculation about the cost, motivation, and outcome. Anticipation builds and knives are sharpened.

And then it happens, the big reveal. Everyone and their dog suddenly have knowledge, interest, and an opinion on brand strategy, kerning, color symbolism, trademark infringement, phonetics, semiotics… The real objectives of the project (which are rarely disclosed) are ignored and instead efforts are made to downplay the importance of the rebrand.

This week we saw one of the world’s biggest and best known corporate brands announce a rebrand and restructure. Google Inc., the corporate brand that includes Google, Nest, and Calico is now called Alphabet.

In a move that caught everyone by surprise, the announcement of the restructure and new name for the $600 billion company was made via a low-key blog post. In the short note, Larry Page stated that the idea is to create a business that is “cleaner and more accountable.” There was no public appointment of an agency, no build up, speculation or hype.

They quietly did the work before letting the world know. No big deal. Look closer, however, and you will see that the style and manner of the launch of Alphabet communicated the meaning and purpose of the new name. Alphabet works on a number of levels. The announcement of the new name was entitled “G is for Google,” subtly bringing together the intentions of the name with the underlying strategy; a simplified house of brands.

Alphabet makes you think Sesame Street, building blocks, and the infinite possibility of language. It is playful and exciting, without being scary or oblique. It also nicely echoes the spirit of Google’s original founders IPO letter, stating they would make “smaller bets in areas that might seem very speculative.”

Probably most satisfying of all about Alphabet and its launch is the domain name. Alphabet has the clever address of abc.xyz – Alphabet.com is already taken, being the home of a fleet management company owned by BMW. The web address is a nod to a joke in the HBO comedy Silicon Valley: in the show, a fictional company parodying Google lives at hooli.xyz. They even went to the effort of hiding a link to the joke website in a full stop in the announcement.

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