August 25, 2015 - Comments Off on How Alphabet will benefit and protect the Google brand

How Alphabet will benefit and protect the Google brand

Earlier this month a company called Alphabet popped up and Google, as we know it, ‘slimmed down’ to fit within it. This sudden restructure was announced on the newly created Alphabet website by its CEO Larry Page – who, of course, is the co-founder of Google.

Google now sits alongside a number of other enterprises under the Alphabet umbrella – enterprises like Calico, Fiber and Nest. The purpose of this surprise restructure is to give these enterprises the independence and freedom they need to develop their own brands.

Time will tell whether this has the desired effect.

The reaction to Alphabet

Unlike its announcement, creating a conglomerate, a parent company or a mother ship doesn’t just happen overnight. But it’s been interesting to read the interpretations of journalists, marketers and technology bloggers as to why Alphabet was created.

It’s been suggested in Campaign magazine by Marco Bertozzi that as Google grew, they were slowing in terms of innovation – and so this reshuffle lets them make smart bets and riskier decisions through the enterprises without harming the Google brand.

Brands are difficult to protect – especially when people start using the name for more than it’s intended. It’s like when we say Hoover instead of ‘vacuum’, and (as Alan Partridge once informed us) Tannoy instead of ‘public address system’.

Brands like aspirin, cellophane and escalator have lost their trademarks this way, and since plenty of us say Google instead of ‘search the internet’ it’s only a matter of time before Google goes the same way.

The New York Times wrote a fascinating piece on how this ‘genericisation’ can damage a brand, saying ‘the term Google is so deeply embedded in the language as a synonym for Internet search that it can be difficult for Google’s nonsearch products to shed the association’.

The issue of brand ownership

So clearly there’s a lot to consider when introducing a new brand into the world. But how about the word itself? Why ‘Alphabet’?

It’s an interesting choice because it’s very hard to own. BMW had the name Alphabet long before Google chose to settle on it, and the company published an A-Z of its fleet management service in a stunt to remind the public about it. They’re still investigating potential legal action.

Then the simple domain names for Alphabet have all been taken – so they’ve had to think differently around the issue, and in the end they’ve gone with the clever domain of https://abc.xyz/.

And then there’s your Twitter handle. A resident of Cleveland in Ohio who owns @alphabet has had to declare that he is not affiliated with Google Inc. or Alphabet Inc. in his bio.

It’s a very modern problem. The concept of ownership is evolving, and so it’s become even more important to think about how you name a brand and then know how best to protect it – as Google have done.

Or should that be ‘as Alphabet have done’?