Archive for the 'Brand Trust' Category

Google as Soup Nazi: “No brand for you!”

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

It’s almost funny the way that Google sometimes pretends that it has no brand obligations, that Google is responsible for nothing–and accountable to no one–since its products are “free.” It’s an attitude that says, “Take it or leave it. We have no brand relationship.” That’s a risky stance in an increasingly “social” world.

Google as Soup Nazi: “No brand for you!”

Google’s attitude  brings to mind the famous Soup Nazi episode in Seinfeld with its memorable  “No soup for you!” Instead of the Soup Nazi behind the counter, though, I imagine Google back there, barking “No brand for you!” to anyone who dares question what is given.

The You Tube video can’t be embedded, but here’s a link:

 

Image credit: Larry Thomas

 

 

 

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Android: the dangers of a recessive brand

Monday, October 24th, 2011

I’ve previously critiqued Google’s brand strategy (here, here and here) for what I consider short-sighted brand approaches that limit Google’s social appeal. It now appears that Google may pay an additional price for being brand timid when it could have been bold. Amazon’s new Kindle Fire threatens the Google Android brand in tablets because Google developed Android as a recessive brand. In monumental brand irony the Kindle Fire will use Amazon’s version of Android against Google itself, as the anchor of a complete brand ecosystem, potentially taking Android app developers—and Android customers—with it. Brand-wise, Amazon is positioned to take Google’s lunch and eat it, too.

How on earth could the Google brand let this happen?

A fork in the Android brand

To answer the question above we first have to examine the provenance of Android itself. Google developed Android as open source software. Google offers it essentially free to mobile device makers to spur its adoption in as many mobile devices as possible. There’s a catch, however. Software that’s open source can be–and often is–”forked.”  While Android readily lets licensees add their UI and top end elements to the base software, developers can–if they wish–forgo the official Android license and take the open source code in a new direction entirely, “forking” or branching it from its original path. The newly independent code can’t use the Android name, or Google add-on’s like Maps, Google Voice, etc., but that may not matter. The new fork has its own agenda, and is essentially a new brand itself.

The big forker is Amazon

Enter Amazon. Amazon has cleverly taken an older version of Android and developed a proprietary Amazon tablet OS with it, tightly integrated into Amazon’s market offerings. The result is the Kindle Fire, offered at a disruptive price of $199 (seriously undercutting the price points of Android’s tablet partners). The Kindle Fire is a full-function tablet that incorporates Amazon’s app store, downloads for games, music and video, books and everything else in the vast Amazon offering. It bypasses the standard Android App Market and other Android services set up by Google as part of the original Android platform. Amazon thus steps in to potentially steal revenue from Google and its Android tablet partners. It also potentially excludes Google from the valuable user information capture that’s critical to Google’s revenue model. That information capture is what Google envisioned for Android in the first place.

Android as a recessive brand

Let’s now take a close look at the nature of a recessive brand. A recessive brand does not pass its full DNA to customers as a unique and compelling context of value or brand experience. It “does a job” but otherwise keeps to the background, deferential and dumb. It doesn’t lead; it goes along for the ride. It does not procreate brand value. It doesn’t stand tall as a brand that one can interact with, get to know, and ultimately trust.

Escape from accountability

As I see it, Android was developed as a recessive brand that happily surrenders its Google identity for the sake of fast global ubiquity. Beyond that, the passive Android taps into Google’s historic un-brand ethos of not wanting to be held accountable–for anything. In other words, Google wants Android brand ubiquity without Android brand responsibility. It doesn’t want to be on the hook for OS issues, screw-ups and associated problems where it has to deal with those messy things called people. In contrast to a proactive brand that embraces customers and stands behind its product, Android needs someone else to “front” the brand and to deal with you and me. In mobile and tablets the front men are the device makers (HTC, Samsung, et. al.) and the carriers.

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How a company’s board of directors can damage the company’s brand

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Can a company’s board of directors damage the company’s brand, even if the board has no stipulated brand responsibilities? I think the answer is “yes” if the board fails to execute wisely in two critical areas. First, if the board hires a CEO unable to articulate a brand vision that advances the company beyond competitors. If  the brand vision fails everyone fails: customers, employees, partners, shareholders. Second, the board can damage the brand if the board’s own actions become so controversial and/or questionable as to taint brand credibility and trust.

Types of brand damage that can occur

As I see it, the types of brand damage that can be caused by a poorly performing board of directors can include:

  1. Loss of customer confidence if board decisions make the brand appear weak, unfocused, or without clear direction. The brand assumes an element of risk.
  2. Loss of employee confidence if board decisions appear reactive and non-strategic, or if the board-appointed CEO can’t articulate a coherent brand vision of what the compan stands for, where it’s headed, and especially “Why?”
  3. Loss of investor confidence if a pattern of board decisions points to lack of unity at the top, internal politics over strategy, and/or a designated CEO who seems ill-equipped to meet expected challenges. As investors sell shares the brand loses asset value, and may approach break-up value (sold for parts).
  4. Board missteps may lead to difficulty recruiting top CEO candidates because no executive wants to work for a company with an unsteady board. Consequently, the brand may be starved of executive leadership.
  5. Board missteps may lead to loss of confidence by channel partners if the company’s brand pales in comparison to brands of competitors. Competitors are quick to seize on any apparent band weakness.

The HP board and the HP brand

Available evidence suggests that the board of directors of HP would seem to meet the two brand-negative conditions noted in the opening paragraph. The Hp board has appointed CEO’s who turned out to be a bad fit for HP, and the board’s own missteps have compounded HP’s problems. HP’s recent CEO’s have been at the flashpoint of turmoil and controversy, and so has the HP board itself, most notably in its internal spying and pretexting scandal of 2006. This week the board named Meg Whitman as HP’s seventh CEO since 1999. Ms. Whitman replaces Leo Apotheker, whose fit with HP was questioned 11 months ago when he replaced Mark Hurd. Hurd had lost the confidence of the board after a highly publicized battle over sexual harassment allegations and expense report irregularities. The board’s actions in terminating and suing Hurd also drew criticism.

Brands are designed to be seamless vessels of seamless value, but at HP seamless transitions appear to be the exception rather than the rule.

A board described as “nearly dysfunctional”

From the New York Times, on the day prior to the Meg Whitman announcement:

The mystery isn’t why Hewlett-Packard is likely to part ways with its chief executive, Léo Apotheker, after just a year in the job. It’s why he was hired in the first place.

The answer, say many involved in the process, lies squarely with the troubled Hewlett-Packard board. “It has got to be the worst board in the history of business,” Tom Perkins, a former H.P. director and a Silicon Valley legend, told me.

Interviews with several current and former directors and people close to them involved in the search that resulted in the hiring of Mr. Apotheker reveal a board that, while composed of many accomplished individuals, as a group was rife with animosities, suspicion, distrust, personal ambitions and jockeying for power that rendered it nearly dysfunctional.

A board that didn’t interview the CEO that it named

As noted in the previous link, the HP board unanimously voted to appoint Apotheker as  CEO  in September, 2010, but only the four board members on the search committee had interviewed him. The remaining eight board members had no interest in meeting him for a face-to-face interview. This is disturbing from a brand perspective. One might ask: What was the board thinking? This was a candidate for the highest position at HP, a man who would define and execute  HP’s vision, values and strategy going forward. Certainly he was a man critical to the success of the HP brand. How can you not look him in the eye, size him up, plumb his vision and values, measure him against the challenges confronting HP, and determine first hand if he is fit to be a successor to the esteemed William Hewlett and David Packard?

“Jarring strategy shifts” and a stock price plunge

Eleven months after the HP board unanimously agreed on Apotheker’s appointment, the CEO was sent packing. Apparently, Apotheker had no clue of his impending termination. The HP stock price had plunged a stunning 47% during his short tenure, during which he had proposed “jarring strategy shifts.” These included:

  1. Proposing to sell or spin off HP’s core PC  business—which accounted for a third of HP’s revenue—without any plan in place at the time of announcement. This raised numerous strategy questions, sent investors reeling, and sent the stock price downward.
  2. First touting HP’s entry into fast-growing tablet market using WebOS software (from Mark Hurd’s $1.2 billion Palm acquisition), and then several months later abruptly cancelling it, and proposing to exit the WebOS line of business.
  3. Announcing the acquisition of software company Autonomy for $10.3 billion, without clearly defining how the acquisition would contribute to HP’s market growth and revenue. In addition, the price paid for Autonomy was questioned as being too high.

Saving HP from a brand of confusion

HP is a brand of . . . what? Brands provide clarity of company purpose. When brands are mismanaged the result can be a brand of confusion, where the company may struggle to fit a category, but falls short of a brand that can command a context. HP is an established brand and certainly not “broken,” but Apotheker’s recent announcements raised more questions than answers—and brands are answers. Apotheker’s legacy to incoming CEO Whitman is a gnawing sense of confusion regarding HP’s new direction. What’s the new context of HP? Is HP pulling out of consumer markets? How does Autonomy take HP to the next level? And how do proposed radical changes translate to the bottom line?  What’s the vision, and the plan? As her first order of business Whitman needs to erase any potential brand confusion from the minds of employees, customers and investors.

 

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Brand rule for banks: Run the bank as a brand, or run the bank to the ground

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

In 2011 it’s distressing to see yet another headline of bank brand failure, where a bank’s brand trust has been compromised. This time it’s an alleged “rogue” trader who rang up a staggering loss of $2.3 billion for UBS bank of Switzerland. If there’s one brand rule for banks it’s this: Run the bank as a brand, or run the bank to the ground. When brand principles don’t drive bank operating practices, the bank itself is at risk. (A later news update is here.)

Brands succeed when brand principles drive business operations

As I’ve noted previously, brands succeed when brand principles drive business operations. To my mind, the leading brand principle is simple: “The closer you look, the better we look.” This is especially true for banks, proverbial  brands of integrity and trust. Traditionally banks have been stalwart brands of fiscal prudence: solid, reliable and properly cautious. They were brands we could bank on. What made bank brands work was the absolute integrity of bank operations. This was an integrity we could see, feel and trust, from our first step through the massive front doors to the guarded tellers and vaults within. In a bank nothing was left to chance. Bank practices and procedures included layers of sign-ins, sign-offs and sign-outs, double-checks from peers, scrutiny from higher-ups, and a general skeptical gaze.

At least that was the nominal rule until the massive brand failures of banks in the credit crisis and economic collapse of 2008-2010, well documented here. That was ostensibly a “lesson learned.” Bank brands are still recovering.

Brands are built from the inside out. And they die from the inside out.

Brands are built from the inside out. And they die from the inside out. Again, this is especially true for banks. Brands of trust are fragile creatures, even within granite walls and steel vaults. For the bank, brand values are key. They must be baked into every step of bank operations. Brand values are a systematic discipline.  This can be challenge for investment banks with profit-focused trading desks like UBS—and others before it (e.g., the brand flame-out that was Barings)—but the bank really has no choice. Again, it’s either run the bank as a brand, or, ultimately, run it into the ground.

The UBS brand: on the outside looking in

From the reports cited it would appear that the UBS brand suffers from being a brand on the outside looking in, rather than a core driver of UBS operating principles and priorities. The rogue trading in question apparently went undetected for three years, way back to 2008.

Here are key quotes from the first article cited above on the UBS brand failure:

The incident raises questions about the bank’s management and risk policies at a time when it is trying to rebuild its operations and bolster its flagging client base. The case could also bolster the efforts of regulators who have been pushing in some countries to separate trading from private banking and other less risky businesses. …

———-

“It’s a shock, a real negative surprise,” said Panagiotis Spiliopoulos, head of research at the private bank Vontobel in Zurich. “People thought that after the bank had been revamped following the 2008 crisis, it was set up in a way that could avoid this kind of event.”

Shares of UBS dropped more than 8 percent on Thursday, while the broader European banking sector was up.

———–

“The question that will be posed is how could this happen given the fact that all banks have committed to reduce proprietary trading,” said Rainer Skierka, an analyst a Sarasin, another private Swiss bank, referring to the practice of firms trading with their own money. “The next question is how the supervisor’s line of control works.”

Brands mitigate risk—when they’re brands of operation

A key value of brands is that they mitigate risk–when they’re brands of operation. Brands mitigate risk by institutionalizing brand values throughout company policies and practices. Brand principles become operating principles, endorsed and enforced. The stronger the brand the less risk a company incurs. A disciplined and systematic brand culture takes root. The brand aims to mitigate risk because it knows that an operating brand breakdown, such as that at failed banks in 2008-2010, or at energy giant BP in the Gulf of Mexico  (see here and here), may lead to catastrophe.

At banks the bottom line is trust

At UBS, and at all banks, the bottom line is trust. No trust, no business. UBS is widely known for its wealth management operations for high net worth individuals. Some of these individuals are worth more than $2 billion UBS just lost. The question now becomes whether doing business with UBS is worth the risk. That is a brand question UBS must answer.

END NOTE: Should investment banks get a brand pass?

One might argue that UBS is primarily an investment bank, and is therefore not a candidate for a prudent, risk-averse brand operation befitting a traditional retail bank, the kind that handles checking and savings accounts for everyday citizens. The investment bank culture, it might be argued, is a high-risk trading culture where big bets are made and big losses tolerated if bigger wins come in. In other words, the trading operation is a brand of risk rather than a brand of prudence. It’s a “casino” more than a “bank.”

Two key factors work against this argument. First, UBS management has tried to institute stricter operating controls following UBS’s near-fatal collapse in the credit meltdown of 2008–2009. Obviously, they need to do more. Second, the prevalence of an undisciplined trading culture argues that it be segregated from normal  banking operations, with the latter fully insulated from the risks of big bets. Such “ring-fencing” proposals are now under government consideration.

If banks can’t manage their brands, regulators will

From the Financial Times: Suspect trades reinforce ringfencing argument

UBS’s maverick transactions have caused too little damage to strain the bank’s stability, though a $2bn write-off could trigger a third-quarter group loss. But the ease with which deluded or dishonest traders can evidently still dodge internal risk limits will reinforce distrust of an investment banking sector where bad legitimate bets are a far greater systemic problem.

Brands are systemic solutions. If banks can’t manage their brands and solve such problems for the social good, regulators undoubtedly will.

 

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If your story rings false, so will your brand

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

There’s nothing better than a customer testimonial to build credibility and trust in a brand—except when the testimonial doesn’t ring true. A case in point may be testimonials Samsung recently presented in support of its latest Galaxy Tab models. The validity of the testimonials has been called into question.

Samsung competes against the Apple iPad and other tablets in the red hot digital tablet market. The company presented video testimonials as part of a Galaxy Tab product presentation at a press event at the 2011 CTIA conference in Orlando. Samsung then posted  a video of the presentation on YouTube.

How true is the testimonial?

Something didn’t ring true to tech editor Harry McCracken about the three individuals who praised the Tab in the testimonials in the video, so he did some checking. He found that two were actors and the third was member of a production company that has worked for Samsung.

Here is the video. The testimonial portion starts at 7:45.


What are “true life stories of Galaxy Tab users”?

Now Samsung might contend that these are not testimonials per se because they describe the videos as an “interview project” (whatever that might be). They might argue that the segments were merely dramatized use cases of a hypothetical travel writer, film director and real estate exec. In that sense, what we see are fictionalized personas, not (real) people. However, the on-stage presenters make it seem that the testimonials are real. They say, “It’s always very interesting to hear the true-life stories of Galaxy Tab users” (11:30) and they refer to the last video segment as “one consumer’s story” (25:05).

Truth matters to a brand

So, it would appear that we are supposed to believe that these are true stories of Galaxy Tab consumers, although facts suggest that they are scripted stories using paid talent. That’s not good for the brand. A brand draws a clear line between truth and fiction. That’s what separates a brand from fakes. Ergo, truth matters to a brand. And the worst kind of image a brand can create is an image of deception.

Let the Samsung brand walk the walk

Samsung is a highly capable global brand. I have no doubt that it can be a formidable competitor to the iPad and other tablets. But rather than jeopardize its brand credibility with pretend consumer testimonials, Samsung would be better advised to take the role of underdog to the iPad and give us spirited demos of what the Galaxy Tab can do in different use cases. Put someone real on a Galaxy Tab. Amp that person with 50,000 gigawatts. Let the Samsung brand and the Galaxy Tab walk the walk. Let that person talk to us. Directly.

 

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Brand lessons from the BP oil disaster

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

deepwaterhorizon2

It’s not too early to discern some strategic brand lessons from BP’s horrific oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. BP is a global oil giant with a highly visible (and controversial) brand identity: a major oil company that’s positioned itself as “beyond petroleum.” Yet today the BP brand is smothered in oil as far as the eye can see, a symbol (and agent) of massive pollution.

Why the BP disaster is a big deal for brands

The BP oil disaster is a big deal for brands because it marks a catastrophic failure of a top-tier brand. As such, it stands to have far-reaching consequences that will play out in time across all brands. At this early stage, three immediate “big deal” factors stand out to my mind:

  1. BP has become the antithesis of its proclaimed identity. It has gored its own icon. How could that happen to a billion-dollar brand?
  2. We may be witnessing the greatest sudden loss of brand trust by a company in the history of business. This is much more than a brand doing a poor job of crisis management. It appears that the BP brand took its eye off the ball and allowed the crisis to happen, a transgression no brand—or business— can afford.
  3. Events suggest that BP’s reliance on “positioning,” “messaging” and “mindshare” (an advertising approach to brands) helped decouple the brand from operational realities. The resulting BP brand was “positioned in the mind” of a campaign audience but had diminished presence in BP’s drilling operations, where it was desperately needed before and after the blowout. Current cost of this disconnect: $2 billion (and growing).

What are the long term brand consequences?

As I see it, the BP oil disaster will contribute to a reassessment of the conventional “mindshare” approach to brands that treats brands as media artifacts in a persuasion package to shape perceptions. This superficial “branding” approach can blind the brand to operational issues desperately in need of brand direction. There’s growing evidence that this is exactly what happened in BP’s case. The brand outcome is the full story. It can’t be bottled in a mindshare campaign.

Due to the enormity of BP’s brand failure I’d expect to see a new emphasis on brands  as a method of delivering operating value, rather than symbolic campaigns. In this structured brand value approach, brand principles and priorities directly drive business decisions, with a brand’s full emotional force. This is a working brand of company culture, rather than campaigns.

What went wrong with the BP brand?

What went wrong with the BP brand? The framing question, as I see it, is this: Did BP fail its brand? Or did the brand fail BP? At present, I’d say the answer is “Both.”

We also want answers to related questions: Were there critical flaws in the BP brand approach? In the brand model? In the brand strategy? In brand program execution? Was the problem weak brand leadership? Or was the brand simply marginalized, relegated to media campaigns and decoupled from essential company operations (e.g., brand practice in the oilfield) where it might have made a difference?

If the BP brand was indeed “beyond petroleum,” what precise vision and values guided BP’s oil production business, and its dedicated employees? BP’s 80-page  Code of Conduct, “Our commitment to integrity,” makes no mention of the BP brand. How is that possible?

Not surprisingly, other oil companies are distancing themselves from BP’s oilfield practices.

A note about this post

I’m writing this as events unfold, so my assessments are preliminary. I’m also aware that BP is not the only company with responsibilities in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. My focus here is on brands as a form of strategic and operational leadership, and that means a focus on BP.

With a failing brand, BP’s troubles just keep gushing

When a brand fails, everything fails, and BP’s travails certainty point to systematic brand failure. We have BP’s CEO being raked over the coals in the US Congress. BP is currently facing possible criminal charges, accusations of cover-ups, fines of up to $258 million per day, and accusations of blocking reporters from covering the story. There are also serious allegations that BP had been cutting corners on safety.

BP’s brand failings have jeopardized the credibility of the oil industry itself, and will certainly lead to greater—and more costly—industry regulation.

What’s especially troubling is that these are the kinds of breakdowns in quality that brand programs are designed to prevent. A more effective BP brand program might have saved the $20 billion that BP must now set aside in escrow to pay for environmental and community damages.

The BP brand could have been a hero and shining star in this tragic episode.  Currently, it bleeds copious amounts of trust with every passing day.

Basic brand lessons

What follows are some basic brand lessons from the BP oil disaster as I see them at the present time. 7

1. “Positioning” the brand where the core business isn’t (in BP’s case, “beyond petroleum”) puts the brand at risk.

The BP oil catastrophe may herald the end of artificial “brand positioning” as an element of brand strategy. Under its striking Helios logo BP claimed a high-profile positioning as a “green” renewable energy leader “beyond petroleum.” As such, the BP brand was aiming for a make-believe category in people’s minds, since BP’s business was petroleum for the foreseeable future. Instead of being an enlightened brand of  innovative and responsible oil production, where 99% of its business resided, BP apparently let its “beyond petroleum” positioning blind it to a disturbing pattern of  risky design practices and short-cuts over a decade of operations.

In the real world, it’s the vision and values at the operations level that position the brand—and the business—to succeed.

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For Google, it’s brand trust or bust

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Can the Google brand be trusted with one’s personal information? That’s becoming the central question as Google continues to struggle with privacy and customer service issues, exemplified by the initial uproar and continuing controversy over Google Buzz. Every passing day seems to raise more questions about Google’s ability to be a brand of trust. A privacy group has demanded an FTC investigation. A number of usability issues don’t make matters any easier for Google.

Google quickly apologized for its privacy transgressions, then implemented rapid fixes to help allay privacy concerns. That’s commendable. Repairing damage to the Google brand will take longer.

Brand trust or bust

For Google, earning brand trust is much more than a “customer relations” problem. Earning brand trust is now Google’s central challenge as a business. For Google, it’s brand trust or bust. Without customer trust in the Google brand, Google’s desire to be an all-encompassing provider of social media services, rolling up Facebook + Twitter + AOL + Windows  + Apple + Everything Else will be difficult—if not impossible—to achieve. People might use individual Google components—Gmail and Docs, or Google Reader, for example—but hesitate at the all-Google immersion. They will certainly push back if they feel railroaded into a one-sided relationship, as happened with Google Buzz.

Google must succeed as an platform of trust before it can succeed as a platform of social media.

You can’t toss your brand on the wall to see if it sticks

The disaster of the Google Buzz launch teaches Google a vital brand lesson. You can’t toss your brand on the wall to see if it sticks. At Google you can quickly develop a new web product and throw it against the wall to see if it sticks. If it fails to stick you can still get a pass. But things are different with brands. Customers are in the mix; live testing on customers isn’t. If you throw your brand on the wall and it fails to stick, your ass is grass.

Google’s business model can undermine its brand

Smart companies align their business model with their brand. It’s brand first, business model second. If Google follows a restrictive business model to capture, contain and control customers in order to harvest and monetize their information, the business model puts the Google brand at a competitive disadvantage. That’s because the essence of a brand is how a company approaches its customers. If the approach is primarily one of customer predation, the brand is condemned to be a shallow cloak or misdirection, diverting attention from reality. This approach wastes the strategic advantage of brands in advancing customers and co-creating value with them. Ultimately, the  “capture, contain and control” business model creates the conditions  for brand disruption from a new market entrant. It leaves too many customer gaps to be a sustainable strategy.

Google’s point of brand reckoning

Every company eventually reaches a point of brand reckoning, where its brand decides its fate. This can be a sobering moment, often at a time of profound crisis. Does the company intend to manipulate and contain its customers, or does it intend to raise them to new levels of being and doing, with freedoms to match? What’s the brand agenda? That’s the fundamental question. Google has now reached its point of brand reckoning. Where is it taking its customers? What kinds of customer growth does the Google brand offer? What new freedoms and opportunities? How are these qualitatively better than what Facebook, Twitter and other provide? What’s the Google brand journey?

In a proactive brand scenario, Google and its customers are on the same page, writing it together. Google does not dictate the script. It does not “write its customers in.” It does not try to script the customer experience.

Google as a brand of privacy

As I’ve argued before, “Protecting privacy confers strategic advantage.” This is certainly true in Google’s case. Radical as it may seem, Google’s best strategy going forward is to become the leading brand of privacy. A Google brand of privacy can solve existing problems of brand trust—and preempt future ones—at the source. A Google that leads in privacy can create sustainable platforms of trust that leverage innovative platforms of technology in ways that Facebook and Twitter can’t meet.


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Google: an algorithm trying to be a brand

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

As I’ve noted previously (latest here) Google in many respects is an algorithm trying (and often failing) to be a brand. It “gets” information, but it doesn’t “get” humans. Google Buzz is the latest example of the latter.

In Why Google Buzz isn’t buzz-worthy Mike Egan of Datamation details key shortcomings that stand between the algorithmic Google and Google as a “psychological space” (i.e., brand) that customers can trust.

If Google can’t rise to the level of a trusted brand, where it teams with customers instead of relentlessly mining them for data, its ability to compete with brands such as Apple will be diminished.

UPDATE

Feb. 11 In response to widespread privacy concerns over the Buzz implementation process, Google as tweaked and clarified the process. See here.

For additional context, see The negative buzz around Google’s new social network in the New York Times.

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