For those who don't know, Mozilla is seeking comments about their redesign of their branding. They're not seeking the community's help for the actual branding design, just…comments.
I once said that Mozilla has been slowly becoming corporate in their mentality, and it's looking more like that's the case with every moment I see news about them.
They've given SeaMonkey and Thunderbird to the community, but they've killed Persona and the Firefox App Marketplace, and FirefoxOS has gone from a good mobile phone OS to something used as a gimmick on smart TVs.
Now, Mozilla is giving a somewhat valid reason behind the branding overhaul: lack of recognition.
Since late 2014, we’ve periodically been fielding a global survey to understand how well Internet users recognize and perceive Mozilla and Firefox. The data has shown that while we are known, we’re not understood.
- Less than 30% of people polled know we do anything other than make Firefox.
- Many confuse Mozilla with our Firefox browser.
- Firefox does not register any distinct attributes from our closest competitor, Chrome.
Let me break it down just a bit.
"Less than 30% of people polled know we do anything other than make Firefox." – Well gee, could it possibly be because you barely market anything else, or that those other projects keep getting given to the community? Outside of Firefox, Webmaker, Mozilla Developer's Network, Firefox Accounts, and Firefox OS (somewhat), I can't think of anything else Mozilla has really talked about in the public eye. Hell, on the Android App Store, only Firefox (and FF Beta) and Webmaker are listed as products. That's Not much for people to go on.
Also doesn't help that the only project they advertize on Mozilla.org is Firefox. Just saying…
"Many confuse Mozilla with our Firefox browser." – Of the five projects I mentioned above, three of them have Firefox in the name, one is made for developers, and Webmaker isn't something I really even hear about. On top of that, I rarely see any decent Mozilla branding in the apps themselves. In "About Firefox", Mozilla's information is reduced to a line that puts the Get Windows X Trap to shame. The company is bad at even marketing themselves in their own product!
On top of all that, this problem is very common. There are plenty of games where someone can tell you the name of the game of the top of their head, but not the publisher or developer. It's normal for mainstream people to not know who's behind something, simply because they're selective about what they remember. It's not a branding problem, it's a people problem, and that's not something a rebranding will help.
"Firefox does not register any distinct attributes from our closest competitor, Chrome." – Besides the fact that it's not Google? It's a web browser! Outside of minor features, the UI, and platform-specific integrations (Firefox Sync & Firefox Accounts), it really shouldn't have all that much difference on the surface. In fact, on my Mac, it runs better than Chrome without being too different, and that's not a bad thing.
Now that I'm done ranting about the Corporate PR Ponzi Pitch™ blog post, it's time to get serious about something. Mozilla's design and branding language have nothing to do with why people have difficulty seeing Mozilla as separate from Firefox.
In fact, in my opinion, Mozilla's current design language for their websites and Firefox OS—the whole Gaia theme—is quite honestly the most beautifully simple styling I've seen in a while. It goes very well with the Mozilla Star logo, with the blueprint-style themes of MDN, and with the general theme of Firefox and Firefox OS. It's not bland, it's universal and easy to design around, which speaks volumes about what Firefox really is, universal and open to everyone.
MDN is clean and readable. MDO is clear about its messages, easy on the eyes, and works on all platforms. AMO flows perfectly between the platforms, and has a great UX.
Mozilla needs to realize that what they have now is something they can capitalize on if they would just make the move to do so. They have the style guides for the current theme written already, but they don't enforce it for their clubs and such. They also don't market themselves well, instead relying more on word-of-mouth and social media than anything. They need to fix that.
Gather someone people who know how to handle social media advertising properly, and start from there. Show people who Mozilla and the Mozillians are, and what Mozilla about: the open web, open source, making the web accessible to everyone, providing privacy to the users. Mozilla is about the people, no matter their background.
Mozilla, you started to do this very thing, but it became so disorganized that you lost every chance you had to take advantage of your stronger messages. Your privacy campaign fell on deaf ears because it came after the small window that would let you get that message out to a large number of users. Webmaker hasn't taken off in in most places because you've barely pushed it. Persona didn't get much traction because you didn't show people why it was better.
Take it from a long-time Mozilla fan who started with the old Mozilla internet Suite on Windows XP after moving away from AOL, and from a self-proclaimed child of the web who loves the open web far more than any operating system or piece of common technology: Your brand is strong, but your marketing is weaker than Microsoft's attempts at being clever and humorous. Look towards that direction to fix your problems, not a redesign of your brand image.