Stephen Logan

The Perpetual Mystery of Google Doodles

8th Sep 2010 News, Industry News 3 minutes to read

Google might well be one of the most recognisable brands in the world, but when it comes to generating widespread buzz, it’s the mysterious doodle that often provides their most useful asset.

The Google home page is renowned for its simplicity. Just a white screen, search box and the logo – that’s it. But over the years this simplicity has been regularly tampered with. The logo undergoes strange transformations to mark special anniversaries and other worldly events.

Being the most visited site in the world means that this kind of tinkering rarely goes unnoticed. Within minutes people all over the world are speculating as to what the significance of the latest ‘doodle’ is. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times, less so.

Yesterday they rolled out something entirely new. This interactive assembly of bouncing balls was completely out of the blue. There was no obvious anniversary to link it to, no evident symbolism, this was just a series of coloured balls that moved as you hovered over them.

Unsurprisingly it caused immediate speculation. Was this Google integrating HTML 5? Was this just Google showing off? Who knows, but it had caused the kind of global buzz that any other company would dream of.

Hundreds of bloggers pitched in with their two cents, social media users alerted friends and shared their own theories, Google meanwhile remained resolutely tight-lipped about the whole thing. So a mystery it remained and it’s one that has only deepened with today’s follow up.

This morning the balls have moved on to Google doodle archiving and have been replaced with an interactive logo that colours itself in as you type. Are these coincidences, is Google up to something, does it really matter?

Well once again speculation was rife. But this time it was backed up by a cryptic Twitter message proclaiming “Boisterous doodle today. Maybe it’s excited about the week ahead…” Surprise, surprise, Google is up to something.

For a company that is so secretive, the power of suggestion and implication is often very persuasive. Suddenly theories that have been circulating the Internet are given far greater credence. Just check out these highly interesting, but still highly theoretical outputs from Search Engine Roundtable [Google Changes Coming Tomorrow: AJAX Results, 30 Results Per Page, Streaming Results & More?] and Search Engine Watch [Google Bouncing Balls Did Spell Hidden Message].

The overriding consensus is that Google is gearing up to announce the introduction of AJAX based search which will include 30 results as well as streaming search results (where the results page instantly updates as you write your query). However, this might be another bit of hoodwinking, a Beta test that may never see the light of day. The bottom line is it is still speculation.

The interesting thing about all this, apart from the possible developments, is the reaction. Almost every major technology and SEO blog has picked up on it and they’ve spread the news. This generates a massive build up of interest in something which may in all actuality be something entirely harmless or unrelated.

Bloggers want to be first with the news, that’s the nature of the beast. Google understands, so too do other large online businesses. If you can create widespread interest, maybe wrap it in a little mystery, suddenly you’ve got a talking point.

That is what the Google doodle has always delivered. I know in my line of work I’ve often had someone come in and say “have you seen the doodle today?” It’s an inherent part of their branding and a natural talking point.

Some are obvious, some less so, others though are a complete mystery. Almost a year ago to the day we had the UFO that caused widespread rumour mongering [see: Google’s mystery UFO doodle finally explained | CNET], now we’ve got the bouncing balls and colour by numbers. What remains the same though is that the doodle did its job. A job that was furthered by  two obscure tweets.

This time though we’ll have to wait and see what the outcome is, although I doubt it’ll be another homage to an obscure 1980’s Japanese computer game. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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