To imitate or innovate?

If you visited Google last Thursday, you likely noticed a change to the familiar homepage. Instead of seeing the rainbow logo and white screen, you were greeted with a random image flooding the screen.
 I don’t know about you, but the first thing I thought when I saw this was how strikingly similar this is to Bing’s homepage design. Let’s compare:

Google is known for its innovative homepage doodles — ranging from recognition of holidays or obscure anniversaries or birthdays. Last month, Google’s homepage featured an interactive Pac Man game in celebration of the game’s 30th anniversary. The game on the homepage was innovative, addictive and flat-out buzz-worthy. Everyone talked about Google’s brilliant move that day. In fact, this move was so popular that Google even made a version of its homepage available with the Pac-Man game.

A mere few weeks later, Google introduced the photo wallpaper option on its home page. Instead of being innovative, it appears as if Google had become a copy cat. Why copy Bing when Google is known for being a market leader?

It seems many Google users felt the same way. Within hours of the background wallpaper showing up on Google’s home page, throngs of users begged for Google to take it down. Google listened and now the wallpaper is optional.

This begs the question — to imitate or innovate?

While this move certainly doesn’t damage Google in the long-run, it does prove why it’s important to listen to your audience and stick to what you do best. Google’s hallmark is its simple home page and powerful search. Adding the wallpaper to the Google homepage didn’t inhibit its search capabilities, but for many, it created clutter to the dead simple search engine. In my opinion, that’s where Google slipped up. While the option to customize the home page may be nice for some, it wasn’t what Google users find valuable.

When it comes to your business, paying attention to competitors is important. It helps you understand market need, and how to differentiate your products and services. However, in doing so, you must be careful to stay true to your brand and live up to your customer’s expectations.

Why do you think Google missed the mark? What should they have done differently? How does this apply to your business?

Google homepage screenshot: Jeremy Victor

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Laura Click

Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

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