This has been a month full of exciting changes for Google. First there was the announcement of a new parent company, Alphabet. Then there was the spinoff of Google X into a standalone life sciences company. And yesterday, users were greeted with a fresh and playful new evolution of the Google logo.
So what do all these changes mean for the future of the brand? I think Alphabet will spell out a new era in taking much bigger risks.
Creating a new corporate entity is often a protective move to shield a brand from potential harm. The advent of Alphabet creates a separate place for the business to invest in the innovations that may seem too risky and perhaps too strange for a well-established and highly valued brand like Google to endeavor. Innovation is uncomfortable at first—it often looks scary or even silly until it becomes the new normal. For example, would a strange-at-first idea like Google Glass have earned greater permission if it had incubated in a start-up rather than Google, a brand that carries a defined set of expectations? Perhaps.
These changes should signal to investors that the brand is going to stretch significantly. In their announcement about the name change, Google mentioned the rationale behind the name as an Alpha-bet, a return investment above benchmark. But they left out a discussion of “Beta” which is also inherent in the new name. Beta stands for innovations that are still being tested and have yet to be proven—like a new life sciences business. Inherent in the name is a promise to have stable and highly protected Alpha businesses like Google. But it sets the stage for riskier Beta bets too.
Yeah, but what do you think about the name itself? I’m a fan.
Alphabet is a very smart name that fits the character of the company. If we think back to the etymology of the name Google, they got it from the number “googol,” a number so large that it almost seems infinite—a great metaphor for Google itself, a business that seemed like it would stretch infinitely, until it couldn’t. Alphabet is the next part of that story. An alphabet is a finite set of characters that can be arranged in an infinite number of ways. The name succeeds in stretching beyond the bounds of Google to spell anything they want for the future.
Photo courtesy of Yonescat.