Wednesday, July 6, 2011
According to Mashable, Google is going to rebrand Blogger and Picasa, two of its popular products. Blogger will be renamed Google Blogs and Picasa will be Google Photos. This is all part of an initiative to unify the brand portfolio ahead of the public launch of Google+, the company's latest and most significant social initiative.
Such a change certainly has the immediate advantage of signaling a strong, no prisoners, commitment to Google+. If the company is prepared to kill off two of its big brands to make the integration of Google+ smoother and more seamless, it's showing its determination to make this thing work.
Opinion is varied. A Huffington Post poll showed that 22% of people liked the change, 29% hated it and 49% were indifferent because "names don't matter." Arguing against the rational, names don't matter POV, Casey Chan at Gizmodo says: "I can go along with changing Picasa to Google Photos, it's an okay, undisgusting move. But swapping Blogger for Google Blogs? WHY?! That's unnecessarily generic. Evilly plain. Disgusting vanilla. Blogger is one of the tent poles of the Internet! You're not allowed to mess with those. I like + a little less now."
Casey's comment points to the potential downside of eliminating product brands in a portfolio in favor of a single brand. For all the benefits of a single brand, product brands bring important benefits of specificity and color. Without such brands, companies that do as many things as Google does can find it hard to compete against category specialists. Will the new social functionality of Google Blogs make it a viable competitor against WordPress?
It looks like Google recognizes that a single-branding approach has its limits because, apparently, YouTube is going to stay as-is (and not be renamed Google Videos). Just like some banks are "too big to fail," some brands are too big to be thrown away. What Casey expressed on behalf of Blogger, many more people would express on behalf of YouTube; the risk of consumer backlash outweighs any potential assimilation benefits. (Besides the company already had a Google Video product before and that didn't work out.)
As Ben Kunz pointed out in a recent post, Google has a classic branding challenge. It used to be something very specific (search) but, over the years, it's added more and more things (Gmail, Earth, Chrome, Earth, Talk, Offers .....), all great in their own way, but all doing their bit to cloud what Google is all about. Maybe Google+ will provide the glue that brings sense and meaning back. Or maybe it will become just another point of confusion.