Google Strawberry Gets Some Raspberries, Branding Kudos Too

Did Google spell its own name wrong on, of all places, its own home page? That's what sent keypads typing all over the blogosphere Wednesday when the Internet search engine altered its famous Google "doodle" in recognition of Valentine's Day, replacing one or more of its characters with the image of a chocolate-dipped strawberry. The problem was that to some observers, it appeared as if Google mistakenly dropped the L and replaced the second G in its logo with the berry image, producing what looked like "Googe."

Google's press department did not return a call from OnlineMediaDaily and the company issued no official statement on the typographic valentine, but a posting on the official Google blog implied that the missing L had nothing to do with being "lost," but had everything do with the suggestion of "love," albeit subtly so.

"When you look at the logo, you may worry that we forgot our name overnight, skipped a letter, or have decided that "Googe" has a better ring to it," reads Google's official post. "None of the above. I just know that those with true romance and poetry in their soul will see the subtlety immediately. And if you're feeling grouchy today, may I suggest eating a strawberry."

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Passions and fruits aside, members of the branding community were struck by Googe. Executives at Omnicom's Interbrand unit began ruminating about it early Wednesday morning--and quickly decided it was not a mistake, but simply a self-assured and supremely strong brand having a little fun with itself, as well as the buzz-oriented online community it serves.

"The interesting thing is that all of us expect them to play around with the Google doodle," said Andrea Sullivan, executive director of Interbrand. "This was an interesting exercise in playing with a corporate brand, but it's testimony to the fact that when you've got a market share in Internet search like Google, you can afford to gamble with a universally recognized brand."

Sullivan cited some of Interbrand's own recent research, including Google's ascendance in its annual study of global brands with BusinessWeek magazine (Google shot up 46% year-over-year, making it the fastest-growing global brand), as well as Interbrand's "Reader's Choice" poll in which Google ranked No. 1 in both 2005 and 2006.

Clearly, the stunt was aimed more at the amorous-minded than the business-minded, especially the financial community. Otherwise, Google might also have dropped the letter E, rendering GOOG, the call letters for its stock on the Nasdaq exchange. In any case, investors still love it. Shares closed at $465.93--up $6.83 for Valentine's Day and near its 52-week high of $469.13.

But the real answer to the mystery behind Google's "Googe" may be found on Wikipedia: "Googe is well-known in Australia for one line of poetry, I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die. This quote was used in a speech by Prime Minister Robert Menzies on a tour of Queen Elizabeth II in 1963. Whilst Menzies remained an ardent admirer of royalty, the country had become less so, and the reaction to its use is often cited by Australian republicans as marking the decline of Australian affections for the monarchy."

Apparently, it's a homage.

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