Engagement/Brand/Why Do We Have Brand Guidelines

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This page contains Mozilla brand guidance for branding, including naming, logo requests, website creation and social media accounts. This is especially for early stage technology projects and Mozilla teams, but can also be applied to other initiatives, groups, events, etc. Please take the time to read this and understand why these guidelines are important. After that, you can find specific guidance accompanied by detailed explanations on the Brand and Identity Guide.

The Short Version

Mozilla is suffering from having too many brands and too many logos.

Over the last 15 years, our tradition has been to create a unique identity - especially logos and names - for teams, experiments, projects, and more. This has resulted in an extremely disconnected, confusing and chaotic set of Mozilla brand experiences.

Brand Audit Project Branding Overview-0.jpg

If you're not close to our work, it's hard to understand that these disparate initiatives are all part of the same Mozilla. At a time when we know we need to increase our relevance and positive perception, having a more consistent team and project identity approach and system will help make who we are clearer and less confusing for more people.

These guidelines are most relevant for early stage technology projects and individual team identities, and have been designed to both enable creativity while reinforcing the idea that we are one Mozilla. (Though we also think there’s opportunity to apply this thinking elsewhere in the org.)

The new guidance is aimed at creating identities that are very deeply tied to the Mozilla brand for early stage technology projects. It also means that while teams can certainly create swag like stickers, shirts, hoodies, etc. that are as creative as they like, teams should not have official logos that separate them from Mozilla as a whole. Our focus should be on the idea that we are one Mozilla. Our teams should have unique personality, but our chaotic branding and prolific logo creation has caused very real harm to the organization’s brand, and with a few simple steps we can start to turn that around.

How We’re Hurting Mozilla (And How to Heal It)

The Mozilla brand has been slowly dying a death by a thousand cuts. This process is sometimes referred to as “creeping normality,” and “refers to the way a major change can be accepted as the normal situation if it happens slowly, in unnoticed increments, when it would be regarded as objectionable if it took place in a single step or short period,” (Wikipedia).

In Mozilla’s early days the landscape of the web was different. Mozilla, and our product Firefox, were hailed as saviors of the web, even by the likes of Google who are a fierce competitor today (at least in terms of their competing browser). In those days the Mozilla brand was strong, and even stronger within developer circles, especially because of its association with being open source, independent, customizable and reliable. We benefited from a tremendous amount of word of mouth marketing, and as such the brand was strong enough that it wasn’t especially harmful to foster quirky branding for all kinds of projects that Mozilla started working on. For a while there was even a Labs program that would spin up complete branding, logos, websites, etc for experiments that were at the very beginning of their lifecycle.

Since then things have changed a lot. For starters, Mozilla has retired some products (Thunderbird, FirefoxOS), and invested in a whole lot of new areas apart from Firefox. Also, the cloud and mobile happened, the browser market is tighter and more commoditized, apps and siloed marketplaces are dominating huge portions of a user’s time spent online, and Firefox’s market share and mindshare have dropped from their peaks. The internet has shifted from a place dominated by early adopters, to a place for everyone. Mozilla does not benefit from the tremendous amount of word of mouth marketing it once enjoyed (though we still do fine), and although we still have hundreds of millions of users, plus a vibrant community of contributors, the strength of the Mozilla brand is diminished. This is even more exaggerated when compared to the growing strength of the brands of our competitors. Google and Apple’s brand strengths have continued to grow and grow in the mind of an average user, and players like Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Tesla, Slack, and others are seen as leaders in technology innovation.

We Have Made Progress

Mozilla has made a lot of progress. Most organizations have very tight control structures, and so when they share something publicly it has been vetted and deemed “ready.” We have a tradition of sharing things with the world at much earlier stages than others, and not having very clear or explicity structures to set expectations about the stability, goals or lifecycle for a project. (I mean, Google kept gmail in beta for 5 years after it launched.)

We have learned, often the hard way, that having tons of users in an early project isn’t always a good thing. And tons of attention on an early project isn’t always a good thing, especially if we haven’t set those expectations. Test Pilot is a fantastic new structure that sets the expectation and creates a clear avenue for early testing and feedback. We’ve also seen that Mozillians are generally receptive of guidelines as long as they’re clear and generally make sense. Tabzilla is an example that was pretty well adopted because it was clearly communicated.

Hopefully, this information helps clearly lay out why we’ve created these brand guidelines, and why the guidelines are important.

Still A Lot Left To Do

Mozilla is constantly churning out amazing and newsworthy technology that we can’t quite seem to get credit for. Our asm.js is becoming Web Assembly, but Google is getting more press about that. We are a major force behind Rust, and while we couldn’t be prouder that the Rust community continues to rack up praise for its work, many people don’t understand that Mozilla’s vision and dedicated engineering contributions have been a huge component of that success. We helped pioneer LetsEncrypt and formed the coalition around it, which is having a truly revolutionary impact on how much of the web is encrypted. And there’s much more. But if you ask an average person about Mozilla, they might know nothing about us, or if we’re lucky they might think Mozilla is a browser. But they won’t know our work, they won’t know our mission, and they won’t know we’re a non-profit.

To Know Us is To Love Us

There are two things we know from our ongoing consumer research and tracking work.

  • Mozilla has low understanding of our brand among consumers.
  • People who learn that Mozilla is a non-profit, and about our mission have a higher affinity for

Firefox and believe it's a more iconic browser than Chrome.

Taking all of this together, the idea is that the Mozilla brand is a huge asset for us, but we have to get better at telling people about it, and we have to make it easier for people to recognize when something is from Mozilla so that we can get credit for all of the work we do that up to now has been very disparate and spread out under names and logos that have no relationship to one another.

What is a Brand? And Should Your Team Really Have One?

Let’s take a second to talk about what a brand is, and what it is meant to accomplish for an organization. In its simplest form, a brand is the name, logo, font, colors, and tagline unique to a company or organization. The brand is how people come to recognize a company out in the world and understand what it does. As a stand-in for a company's reputation, over time a brand becomes one of its most valuable assets.

In the case of Mozilla, our name alone isn't enough to drive this understanding (It's a mash-up of "mosaic" and "Godzilla."). How do companies with equally abstract names like Google and Yahoo (as opposed to, say Bank of America… which is a bank, in America) help people understand their role in the world? They advertise. A lot. Google alone spends about $2B per year. As a nonprofit, Mozilla must find other ways to make our name known, and consistent branding is one of the least expensive and smartest ways to do that.

Before people come to recognize a brand, they need to see it over and over again in a consistent way. Over time, a consistent brand (like Nike or Nestle) can be recognized at a glance, attracting many followers. Brands that are not presented consistently become misunderstood, and are more easily forgotten.

Is there something wrong with our brand now?

No. In fact, our distinctive name can work to our advantage, and our existing name recognition puts us way ahead of new brands and many competitors. But even people who recognize our name don't know that we are a nonprofit and can't explain what we do. There are two reasons why.

The first is that the assets making up the Mozilla brand today - the word Mozilla set in Fira Sans type and a handful of muted colors - are insufficient for modern communications. We lack a logo that can represent us in small spaces (think of the Nike Swoosh) on social media, for instance. A project to modernize our brand identity is now underway to address this deficit.

The second reason is that as an open-source organization, we have over time celebrated the new ideas of individuals, teams, communities, and projects with new names, logos, fonts, and colors. Seen in retrospect, each was a lost opportunity to support one consistent Mozilla brand. Continued indefinitely, these many variations would further dilute the recognition and meaning of Mozilla. We have a big opportunity to address this.

In this context, thinking about a brand as the unique identity for an organization, creating a “competing” unique logo or brand identity for a team within Mozilla, or for an experimental project that is still working toward a proof of concept is not just simply expressing personality, or team building. It also has the following negative impacts:

  • Distancing that project or team from the Mozilla family
  • Disconnecting the efforts of that team from contributing to growing the relevance of the Mozilla brand in the world, and therefore increasing affinity for Firefox
  • Adding confusion to the brand and logo landscape for users who encounter it
  • Maintaining a brand is work that requires maintenance, and not just a one-time effort. Retiring a brand is also work.

But isn’t Mozilla All About Freedom?!

“But Mozilla stands for freedom, quirkiness, openness and the expression of personality.” We hear you - we really do. The marketing team does not want to be a bunch of killjoys running around and peeing on everyone’s awesome campfires… but I digress. We’ve taken a long hard look at the situation, and we’re standing up to say that this is important. This is important.

This is important.

When we think about the web, we think it should be open and full of options for developers. But there are certain things we don’t like - certain things that break the web. Any individual developer may think that “it’s not that big of a deal this one time.” But in aggregate, as each internal team or early stage project strikes out on its own, away from the Mozilla brand, creating a quagmire of logos and brand identities that we stuff underneath the Mozilla brand, we see how outside perception of our brand starts to die from a thousand cuts. We’ve become normalized to the idea that internal teams and experimental projects have a manifest entitlement to their own logo, brand identity, and website URL that are unrelated to Mozilla regardless of whether it actually makes strategic sense in any given case, and whether that is actually the type of work that a team should be dedicating resources to, or committing to maintain over the long term.

The Case for a More Unified Mozilla Brand

Here’s what we’ve established so far.

  • Mozilla has improved how we talk about early stage work, but we still need to get much better
  • Mozilla’s brand is weaker than it used to be, and we are having trouble getting due credit for our innovative work
  • We create new brands all. the. time. Even for vaporware experiments that don’t have a proof of concept yet, and even internal teams.
  • We regularly ditch these brands as projects are killed or simply lose favor, and their associated properties and assets (websites, social accounts, etc) without properly tying up loose ends. We leave a confusing minefield for developers and consumers to stumble upon these abandoned properties across the web.
  • Now more than ever, Mozilla should be working to strengthen its brand, strengthen its reputation among developers, consumers, and media alike, and ensure that all of the great work we do contributes value for all of us at Mozilla

The case for a more unified representation of the Mozilla brand across early stage projects and internal teams is based on the following symptoms of our current situation:

  • Lack of attribution - Our cool new projects get started outside of the Mozilla brand. This means that if there’s news about it, or it’s getting traction within a given community, Mozilla isn’t seeing the benefit. We’re building equity in dozens or even hundreds of disparate brands.
  • Lack of distinction (between early and mature work) - When we give a brand new experiment a full brand treatment (logo, website & URL, color palette, tagline, fonts, etc) we make it look like a mature product that is hitting the market, even if it’s still at an experimental stage where at best it’s prone to shifting strategies, and at worst it may very well shut down.
  • Lack of trust - Without clarity of what is a mature project with a stable roadmap versus an early stage project we will lose the trust of developers. It’s common for a large portion of early stage projects to not succeed (and totally OK!), but if that project was fully branded it won’t look like an early stage project. It will look like Mozilla launched a product that failed. We are reinforcing the perception that Mozilla is not producing real technological innovation, and that we have a bad track record for picking winners.
  • Negative brand equity - Perpetuating the perception that we produce a lot of failed products instead of the idea that we try a lot of experiments and have a great incubator function has two effects. As mentioned, we lost potential benefits from being seen as innovative by trying experiments. But we also get hit negatively by the misconception that these failures weren’t incubated experiments, but full-on product launches.
  • Too many logos - The visual identity of the brand suffers immensely and grows increasingly chaotic as we continue to create unique, unrelated logos for teams and experiments without any uniformity or relationship to the Mozilla brand.

But My Case is Special

This may very well be true. We are definitely not saying that everyone has to follow these guides no matter what. What we are asking is that they become the default. If you are convinced that the success of your project requires you to break outside of these guidelines, share your questions or justification with the marketing team and check in with your team leader, manager or director to make sure they agree with your assessment.

What we’re going to push you on is what you actually need. Do you need a logo? Or do you actually need a sticker for a conference? Do you need a website specifically? Or do you actually need some form of static page to share documentation (or info about the team, or something else)? Is your team committed to allocating the requisite hours of content creation and maintenance to keep these assets running, up to date, and properly representing Mozilla for as long as needed? Is what you’re requesting the best solution for your actual need? Maybe it is - and if you can make the business case clear for what you need, then we’re totally on board. But we may recommend a different way to achieve your goals.

The Tools You Need and Next Steps

For our part we recognize that the best way to fix this problem is to provide tools that help Mozillians quickly and easily get what they need in a manner that we also think is consistent with the overall Mozilla experience. The first tools we can provide are a guide for project naming, and a style guide for creating wordmarks instead of logos for those technology projects. You can find these in the Brand and Identity Guide. They’re interim solutions as there will be a more robust set of Mozilla brand tools and guides in the coming months, but we’re going to provide as much as we can as fast as we can and do our part to help.

Mozilla Brand and Identity Guide (or How to Successfully Brand Your Early Stage Project)