Easy come, easy go . . .

Google has brand.  It is good, strong, built on something real, and seemingly impervious.  Indeed the only thing that could hurt the Google brand would be . . . Google.

Which is precisely what they are doing.

Branding has as many definitions as there are marketing people.  My (copyrighted) definition is that a brand is "what the market thinks and feels about you and your products."  Most people love Google with a passion normally reserved for teenage infatuation.   People think Google is extremely useful (it is), not terrible intrusive (it is not) and successful (seen their balance sheet lately).

The second best definition of a brand I have encountered is that a brand "is a promise delivered."  Google did promise fast, spooky accurate search results, and clever conveniences and tools that make working on the web more effective and fun.  Because they have consistently delivered, their brand promise was believed.

Until China.

Google made one promise that is now of questionable value. Google, being perhaps a little too cute, claimed a corporate motto of "do no evil", which was a welcome reprieve for anyone who had done business with Microsoft .  Google repeated this claim so often and so proudly, that it became a very public part of their overall brand.

Until China.

If you have just recently come out of a coma, you might be surprised to learn that Google, in active participation with the Chinese government (not the legit one in Taiwan, but the counterfeit one on the mainland) censors results from their search engine on google.cn.  Various highly offensive keywords like "democracy", "freedom" and "Tiananmen Square" will produce a range of response from highly filtered results to a midnight knock on the door.

People can disagree on definitions, but few disagree on the application of evil intent.  China’s censorship is, without discussion, evil.  Adding and abetting such censorship is, without discussion, evil.  Google has denied their own brand.

Google made a promise on which it failed to faithfully deliver.  That destroys part of their brand, and thus tarnishes their entire brand.  When the news of this unholy partnership hit the blogosphere, and later the evening news, no amount of fire fighting and corporate spin could undo the
damage.  Google’s claim of "doing more good than harm" rang hollow, and once
loyal users grumbled aloud.

The lesson here my fellow marketers is that public brand claims must be followed by public brand actions.  If your entire company does not live up to the brand claims, the market will respond and censor you.

Now, will someone with access to google.cn see if this article was censored?


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