Schmidt steps down at Google-to refresh the brand?

Schmidt steps down at GoogleEric Schmidt has stepped down as Google CEO and Larry Page, Google’s founding CEO, is back in the saddle. Is this a move to help revitalize the Google brand? Steve Jobs gave Apple a big refresh; can Page do the same?

For years, Brand Channel readers named Google the Reader’s Choice global brand of the year. At times, Google has won more worldwide recognition than the likes of Apple, Starbuck’s, Nokia and Target. Why? Because “Google is kind enough to hide its high-tech interior from the public and give us nothing but a friendly, easy to use, clear, clean exterior,” said BC writers. In 2009, our Liquid Brand Impact Study, an annual study that identifies the technology brands that perform the best in terms of a brand’s impact on purchase behavior, named Google the top overall tech brand for the year.

From its start, Google has been clearly differentiated, known as a world innovator with one very clear mission: to revolutionize search, making it better, easier and faster than ever before. The company’s incredible success has meant fast growth, but does that growth and expansion into new products also contribute to Google’s brand dilution? And, when other search engines have copied Google’s search model and the Internet is moving from search to social interactions, can this still be considered the company’s main point of differentiation?

Who is Google today? Is it possible that this 24,000-strong global company is capable of being the same nimble, fast moving start-up it was eight years ago? Or, has Google grown so large that it’s at risk of becoming another Microsoft? These questions loom large over the Google brand today, even as it’s seen record earnings and is announcing the company will expand its worldwide employee base by more than 6,000 this year.

If Google’s move to bring back Page is, at least in part, a move to reconnect the brand to its roots, will it work? Apple aside, other tech companies that have tried to breathe life into their brands by bringing back their founders have been largely unsuccessful (Jerry Yang at Yahoo! and Michael Dell at Dell, for example).

Jobs didn’t just come back. He helped transform Apple into the brand it is today with innovative design and revolutionary products that were always on the horizon. He led Apple into its next evolution. A brand can’t rest on its laurels. We’ve seen the consequences of that. So, how will Google transform? We shall see what the future holds.

In the meantime, transformation is the theme of this year’s Liquid Brand Summit being held on March 1. We have limited seats left. Reserve now, and join one of the year’s most important conversations with influential thinkers and decision makers in the technology market.

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