By  on April 11, 2007

Google has cast itself at the forefront of brands showing different faces, notably in the playful change of its search engine logotype to reflect various holidays and in the company"s quirky secondary stock offer of 14,159,265 shares, the number representing the first eight numbers after the decimal point in pi. (Pi, the ratio of a circle"s circumference to its diameter, is commonly expressed as 3.14).

Saks Fifth Avenue has been mixing it up by ripping apart its logo and reconstructing it like a jigsaw puzzle on the store"s shopping bags and by displaying a piece of it on its Web site, for instance. And the retailer has signaled there"s more than one way to see the brand in ads like the one that assured "Saks loves it both ways," which portrayed two women wearing the same Pucci blouse differently. One top is unbuttoned to the breasts of a blonde with hand on hip and eyes behind sunglasses looking off camera; the other is entirely unbuttoned and knotted at the midriff of an Asian model looking directly at the viewer.

The Apple iPod, which quickly was transformed from a mobile music medium to a statement of fashion cool, keeps stepping into different roles, from digital DJ for a party when paired with a sound dock, to a means to take in podcasts that entertain or educate.

Welcome to the world of the morphing brand. These brands, with their fluid identities, are in synch with people"s growing inclination to exhibit different personae — an inclination that makes it harder for 21st century labels to succeed by catering to a single consumer type. "A problem for marketers is they won"t be able to profile people in the same way," in the months and years ahead, projected Marc Gobé, chairman and chief executive officer of desgrippes gobé, which creates images for brands. "People are experimenting with different sides of themselves and want to be empowered to change their identities."

One way brands can respond is by transforming their logos and marks from their traditional status as one-dimensional symbols into dynamic messages, with the addition of higher emotional content. "In the industrial age, a logo was just a signature. It should be a message," advised Gobé, author of the recently published "Brandjam: Humanizing Brands Through Emotional Design (Allworth Press, $24.95)." The new Saks Fifth Avenue logo, introduced in January, can be shuffled in seemingly endless permutations of its 64-piece grid, signaling that today the store is "not the same thing all over again," he said.

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