I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter on the Internet about Google’s new favicon. Seems the general consensus is that people hate it. I don’t hate it, but as I twittered a couple of days ago, it’s messing with my mind. When I said that, I meant that as I glance at my open tabs, I see the new icon on all my searches and I can’t immediately associate what I see with Google. I wonder for a moment what I’m looking at, until it filters up into conscious thought and I can associate it properly.
I don’t think it’s a good idea for Google to go and change their branding. It’s not that the new icon is ugly or anything. The problem is that it doesn’t scream Google to the subconscious mind. The old icon did. When you have something that works, stick with it unless you find something that works better.
Here we will take a little detour, which I promise has a point. Have you ever noticed that the word “classic” is a little like the holy grail of marketing? The only reason we don’t see it on everything is that it is a double-edged sword. If you claim that your product is a classic but it actually isn’t, you run the risk of irritating your audience.
Although I don’t actually believe it to be true, sometimes I wonder if New Coke was an expensive and risky marketing strategy designed to allow Coca-Cola to call their product “classic” without worrying about the public crying foul. I was 15 when that fiasco happened in 1985, and I remember a lot of people stocking up on the old version before the new one hit stores. New Coke was quite a lot sweeter, and as I recall tasted much like Pepsi. My comment at the time was “If I want a drink that tastes like Pepsi, I’ll just buy Pepsi.”
The return of the original formula as Coca-Cola Classic was something I celebrated. The joy of having my old friend back in my life made me love it even more. The Wikipedia article I linked above suggests that it was like that for most people. Sales surged and they strongly solidified their number one position, which is what they had been trying to do when they changed the formula.
Perhaps Google is trying to reap similar rewards. If you change things in a way that results in backlash, wait for public outcry to get loud, then bring back what people loved before but change it a little bit to make it even more appealing, it can solidify your position.