Brandaid

When does a brand become detrimental to a company?

Ask Google. They are having a relatively rough time with their brand this week.

Google encountered trouble during the corporate equivalent of a temper tantrum. When they discovered that someone in China (presumably the government) had hacked into Google’s network and spelunked through dissident emails, Google threw a hissy fit. Executives at the all knowing Google failed to know that the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) remains one of the most ruthless around. Google should have known this since Google helped the PRC censor Internet information in order to (according to the PRC) “Properly guide Internet opinion.”

Kinda evil, eh?

Google’s brand started dissolving. In Google’s infancy, they adopted an informal corporate motto of “Don’t be evil.” This kindly directive even found its way into Google guiding manifesto “Ten things we know to be true”, a creed that doubled the simpler tradition established by Bill and Dave, of Hewlett and Packard fame, and their five item “HP Way“. On Google’s top ten list is the ideal that “You can make money without doing evil.” The cynics (realists) among us recognize this isn’t a prohibition against doing evil things, just a recognition that it isn’t essential.

The problem was that Google and their admirers amped-up the “don’t be evil” mantra into a core branding element. Google employees view themselves as not evil. Their admirers have nominated Google for digital sainthood. The population in general bought this part of the brand …

Through ignorance they ignored Google’s complicity in Chinese censorship, which is evil.

It was Google’s reaction to being hacked by their partners in civil liberties crime that dinged the Google brand. When Google threatened to cease censoring searches in Shanghai, people asked “Why are you censoring now?” Adages for doing no evil collided with evidence of doing evil. A core and central aspect of the brand was t-boned by reality.

Foremost, brands must be authentic, or at least branding lies must never be discovered. Take used car salesmen … somewhere … please … preferably to the free side of a cliff. Our common perception of these snaky lemon squeezers is opposite of how they sell themselves, as trustworthy and helpful enablers of transportation. The brand they promote conflicts with your perception of them while you stand on the highway shoulder waiting for a tow truck. He sold you “Honest Bill’s Used Cars”, but you now want to buy large caliber ammunition instead.

Honest clunkers. Don’t be evil, but censor.

When composing your brand, you had better base it on something impregnable, lasting and real. Reality is as consistent as gravity and tends to have the same terminal impact. Base your brand on something authentic and that you can keep authentic. Don’t be evil and don’t be a used car salesman.


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