Even Google needs to rebrand, sometimes

Sep 17, 2018 - John Paff

This summer, one of the top brands in digital marketing changed its name and replaced its logo. Google AdWords became Google Ads.

AdWords is probably the best-known name in online advertising. And it is Google’s main source of revenue. Nevertheless, it was high time for a change.

When it’s time to rebrand

AdWords began in 2000 as brief, text-based advertisements shown to users of Google’s search engine. Ads were triggered by key search terms. Back then, “AdWords” was the perfect brand name.

But soon, AdWords became much more than “words.” Google added many options, including site-targeted or demographic-targeted display ads, video pre-roll ads, product-image ads for shoppers, ads inside apps, and even click-to-call ads for mobile phones.

“Ad words” was no longer the best way to describe what the service had to offer. The marketplace had changed. (In fact, Google had changed it.) A new brand was needed.

In mid-2018, Google announced Adwords would be rebranded as Google Ads.The new name is more inclusive and more accurate. The new logo maintains the familiar A shape and color scheme, but now communicates many kinds of online advertising.


The Google Ads rebranding wasn’t our work, but it was good work. We can all learn some important lessons here.

Five insights about rebranding

1. Even successful companies need to rebrand, sometimes. Although AdWords was generating billions of dollars in revenue, Google understood that a new name and a new logo were needed. Success isn’t a barrier to better brand strategy.

2. Rebranding transforms old logos into new opportunities. When Google Ads was unveiled, there was enough similarity with the original AdWords name and logo to retain customer recognition, but enough difference to grab attention and communicate something new. Rebranding is an open invitation for established users to try new products.

3. When your product changes, it’s time to rebrand. Over time, Google added many new online advertising services, making “AdWords” appear outdated. The new name and logo are designed to communicate a new reality.

4. When your marketplace changes, it’s time to rebrand. At Nichols, we recently helped an independent physician practice distinguish themselves from competing hospital systems in the same community. Emerging competition can make rebranding necessary.

5. When your audience changes, it’s time to rebrand. Senior care is a great example. Aging baby-boomers have much different expectations than their parents — and they have far more choices than any preceding generation. We rebranded a senior-living community as “a better way of living” and won our client new attention from a changing demographic.

Let’s talk about your brand

Is your current brand feeling its age? Does it still accurately reflect your products and services? Does it engage new audiences?

Even if your company is well known and successful, it may be time to put a fresh face on your brand. Let's talk.