It’s so simple. That search bar. It’s just a blank rectangle, and yet as soon as we see it, we know exactly what it is, what it’s for, and how it’s become an integral part of our everyday life. Don’t know where a restaurant is? Who that guy in this TV show is? The population of Kenya? How to roast a chicken? That blank search bar is there for you and ready to give you an answer (or 3.6 million).
That search bar is also the star of Google’s newest global campaign, but it’s not marketing search prowess, or any of the brand’s other integrated and free software programs like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Music, rather using the reputation and brand love it’s built up with those products to pitch its newest foray into hardware, the Pixel smartphone.
The campaign, by agency Droga5, cleverly uses that blank search bar to illustrate all the ways it impacts our lives, then slowly it morphs into a different type of rectangle, one distinctly smartphone-shaped, draw a direct connection between the two products. Droga5 executive creative director Kevin Brady says the world has been dominated by just a few phone brands, and it’s no small challenge to try to break into that tight market. But for the Pixel phone, they had one unique quality to work with that those other brands didn’t–Google itself.
“Our biggest creative challenge was to introduce people to the Google they know and love in a new format, a phone, says Brady. “And around the globe, the most recognized connection to Google is the search bar. Sure, they have done so many other amazing things, but this one shape is the clearest and simplest symbol of all the smarts of Google. Once we realized that, and of course noticed that the shape of our phone was also a rectangle, but a very different shape, we had our campaign. It was building on a truly own-able and iconic equity that everyone could relate to and understand.”
Adrienne Hayes, Google’s VP of marketing for mobile and wearable products, says the brief to the agency was to help the brand “make people know and love us for our hardware, starting with phones, the same way they know and love us for search, email, maps, and more.”
“The campaign launched in six very different markets, so the idea needed to transcended language and resonate with people of all different walks of life. “The shape-shifting search bar is a very identifiable mnemonic that tells a visual story and symbolizes our evolution as a company,” says Hayes. “The Google brand is synonymous with software and services and we want our branded hardware to be known as the best way to experience the best of Google, like the Assistant and Photos. So the campaign is a showcase for the hardware and the software, which is what really differentiates the Pixel.”
Droga5 group creative director Alexander Nowak says that each ad is really two ads in one. “One was the story of ‘the company you know and love for search and other innovations is making a phone,’ which was the shape transformation,” says Nowak. “But search and your phone are also a portal, so we used that shape to also tell a story about those new possibilities a phone from Google creates.”
That visual device kept the creatives focused and allowed them to overcome the challenge in creating a truly global campaign. “The visual elements of the search bar to phone shape are all incredibly universal, easy to understand, and ultimately set the brand apart from other brands,” says Nowak. “Creating something iconic is something every brand strives to achieve, but Google was ripe for that, and I think the campaign achieved that notion quite well.”