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Doodling the Google

In little more than 10 years, Google has managed to become one of the most recognizable brands on Earth.

One of the ways it has achieved this distinction, besides inventing a world-class Web search engine, is by having the good sense to pick a short, simple, memorable and even catchy company name, Google.

Then it displayed the name in large block letters on an otherwise starkly uncluttered home page that invited users to get right to work searching Web pages.

But it didn't stop there. With such a sparse home page design, Google's founders decided to have fun with their logo. They like to dress it up for the holidays, replacing the O's with pumpkins on Halloween or festooning it with candy canes and Christmas ornaments during yuletide. It was a simple way to make the brand friendly, approachable and appealing to people all over the world.

After some of the early amateurish efforts by Google's founders and managers, they decided in 2000 to assign an intern, Dennis Hwang, a Stanford University student trained in graphic design and computer science, to regularly decorate the logo for many international holidays, news events or historical observances.

Since then, Hwang, now one of Google's Webmasters, has drawn scores of what the company calls "Google Doodles" for a host of events and holidays. Hwang especially likes to redraw the Google logo in the style of famous artists, such as Monet or Van Gogh, in honor of their birthdays.

Company officials claim that Hwang's Google Doodles have gained a cult following, with millions of users eager to visit the search site just to see if there is a new design.

And since kids are some of the biggest fans of Hwang's Google Doodles, the company decided to hold a contest for K-12 students to see who could draw the best doodles.

Grace Moon's winning entry

Another time-tested tenet of brand building is if you can get kids using your product early and often they will be customers for the rest of their lives. One of the reasons they don't sell encyclopedias door to door anymore is that kids can just go to Google when they need to do some research for those overdue school reports.

The Doodle for Google contest drew entries from about 16,000 students from across the United States. Google employees and independent art judges winnowed down this field to 400 state finalists and later to 40 regional finalists.

Then the judging was opened to Google users. More than 4 million Google users voted to select the four national finalists, one each from grades K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12.

The winning doodle, titled appropriately enough "Up in the Clouds," was submitted by Grace Moon, a 6th grader from Castro Valley, Calif. Grace won a $10,000 college scholarship for herself and a $25,000 technology grant for her school, Canyon Middle School in Castro Valley.

It's grass roots marketing efforts like this, along with its hugely successful search engine, that have helped give Google a level of brand recognition that has been achieved by few companies in such a short period of time.

Evidence of this can be found in the 2007 Business Week-Interbrand Global Brand Scorecard, which found that Google is now ranked 20th in brand recognition and value behind such long-established names as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, IBM, GE and Intel.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...