On Friday, Google made a bold, and ultimately silly, move in adding a background image to their famously stark home page. When users visited the site, they were greeted with a strange white-on-white version of their logo, which soon faded into colour, displaying a large, bright image (chosen randomly).
The Twitter and Reddit communities quickly rebelled, calling it a Bing clone, and Google reverted to their plain-Jane homepage. But the option remained:
You can now select a background image, if you like.
Google here has dodged a bullet. They came dangerously close to betraying their core values for the supposed allure of increased market share among competitors. For better or for worse, the starkness of Google’s homepage is part of there brand DNA, and the guiding light for the rest of their visual design style. Non-design, being so plain it almost doesn’t exist, is how people know Google. From their plain-text ads to their clunky office suite, it’s what Google is. So the lesson here is simple: stay true to your values! Trying to copy competitors by adopting their gimmicks is not only unproductive as a marketing strategy, but it’s a fast way to alienate your most fervent users — the brand ambassadors.