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August 2015

26 thoughts on Alphabet


NB: I’ve written this as a list as I don’t have time to write a continuous, well-considered blog post.

1. Interesting to see a brand founded on numbers (Googol) now planting its flag in words.

2. Which, as the accompanying announcement explains, are the real currency in which Google operates (“the core of how we index with Google search”).

3. Nice to see an announcement that conveys a genuine, geeky interest in what the name and brand should be. You get the impression Larry Page and Sergey Brin were personally invested in the naming process.

4. And it’s nice that one of the Google and Alphabet founders is called Page.

5. People will always like a pun. Alphabet is a pun on ‘betting on alpha’, investor-speak for a return above benchmark.

6. But good puns are there for a reason, to encode a rationale that makes sense of the name and gives it an extra backstory.

7. Pun aside, the larger rationale is that Alphabet means “a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity's most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search!”

8. Exclamation marks used to make me wince, but I’ve grown to like them – in the right context, they can convey a nice, winning sincerity.

9. It’s a great name with a strong rationale.

10. But it’s easier than a lot of naming projects, as most start-ups would have to say ‘yes, but we can’t own Alphabet – there are too many companies out there already’.

11. That’s not a problem if you’re Google. Some brands have the weight and presence to go for the big, primal metaphors and own them.

12. Which is fair enough – Google has earned that weight and presence by doing great things.

13. I still remember that first encounter with the clean, white search page and the internet suddenly making sense.


14. It’s only on digging out that image that I realise Google has always liked exclamation marks.

15. I wonder if they dropped it because of Yahoo!

16. The exclamation mark in that last sentence is part of the brand name – it’s not meant to suggest me wondering in a particularly lively or emphatic way.

17. A lot of start-ups would also dismiss ‘Alphabet’ because it would be hard to get a decent url.

18. But the url is one of the nice parts of the Alphabet identity: abc.xyz

19. I wonder if there will be a rush for .xyz domain names.

20. Going back to the alphabet metaphor, it’s a good one for Google, but...

21. You could argue Amazon already owns it, with its a-z identity:



22. But obviously nobody owns a metaphor, really.

23. None of this matters hugely as Alphabet will not be a big, public-facing identity.

24. But writers may take heart from the whole thing, as it’s an example of verbal thinking (with an appropriately understated logotype) solving a high-stakes branding challenge.

25. All explained in a nicely written announcement that comes straight from the top.

26. I have nothing else to say but need a 26th point.