Over the past 17 years, Google has not only transformed the way people use the internet, it has also transformed itself – and its brand image – time and time again. Though the brand that dominates the online world has consistently been instantly recognizable, it has subtly tweaked its logo throughout the years and in September released a new and simple design for all of its products.
And while your institution may never have as strong an online presence as Google, there are plenty of lessons university marketers can take from the internet’s master of reinvention.
1 – Change is always an option
No matter how well-established your university, rebranding is always an option. Google is one of the most well-recognized brands in the entire world, yet it’s not afraid to change its look. Doing so draws attention to your university brand from the industry as well as from prospective students. It also shows that you are constantly adapting and growing, that your brand isn’t stagnant.
Keeping up to date and staying relevant in the higher education industry is essential, given higher education’s mission to drive progress and push the boundaries of human knowledge. Your university brand should reflect that.
2 – Evolve rather than re-launch
As the image below shows, Google has subtly evolved its brand logo over the years since it launched in 1998. Each change was noticeable and eye-catching, yet didn’t change so much that the brand became unrecognizable.
Even though you’ll want to keep your university brand up-to-date, changing your university branding completely could distance it from the valuable reputation that it has built over the years.
King’s College London had designs on rebranding as simply King’s London, abandoning the word college for a more minimalist logo and website. Emily Braddock, a second-year theology student at King’s College London, started the petition against the change. She fairly states that the new logo and brand “Undermine(s) almost 200 years of tradition, as well as sabotaging a worldwide reputation built on the name King’s College London.”
3 – You can’t and won’t please everyone
When rebranding or updating your university brand, there’s no way that you can please everyone. Some staff, students, and alumni will inevitably prefer the old branding and will probably make their opinions heard. Earlier this year the University of Western Sydney relaunched its university brand as the ever-so-slightly different Western Sydney University. The university abandoned the of in its name along with its trademark blue bird logo.
Students launched a #savethebird campaign calling out for students to wear blue ribbons in support of keeping the bird. “We, the UWS community, have been let down,” one student wrote in the university newspaper crUWSible.
The UK has seen several universities rebrand in recent years, with a few not lasting long after the initial launch and some not even being implemented. Within hours of Loughborough University unveiling its rebranded logo, a petition was created demanding it is stopped. In fact, more than 12,000 people signed the ‘Revoke 2015 Loughborough University rebrand’ petition on Change.org, forcing the university to put the project on pause.
People, in general, are resistant to change, and you will inevitably encounter some resistance to it. However, if you have made the decision to update your university brand based on your institution’s needs and values – rather than just a desire to ‘look different’ – then those opposed to it will adjust.
4 – Simplify your university brand
If you look at the evolution of the Google logo over the years you’ll notice that it actually gets simpler rather than more extravagant. Many of today’s most successful brands – Nike, Starbucks, and Apple, to name a few – have current logos that are simpler than their originals. Anyone can take something simple and make it complex, but the best marketers work on doing the opposite.
Class and elegance aside, simplicity has another benefit that Google has very wisely considered – the increasing use of mobile. Google’s new flat design works faster, is less cluttered and more easily re-sized for today varyingly-sized smartphone screens. The new sans-serif font wasn’t chosen just as a design preference; it shrinks down to a smaller, more mobile-friendly size than its serif predecessor.
Since students are some of the biggest users of mobile internet, a more simplified university brand logo and website will help to make the user experience better and improve student satisfaction.
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