Is Google’s Brand Equity In Danger?

Last week, while I was on vacation, the big news was the Google-Verizon “net neutrality” agreement. Mostly the public response has been negative and very negative in some quarters.

Danny’s How Google & Apple Sold Out The Cell Phone Revolution is one example. The even stronger Why Google Became A Carrier-Humping, Net Neutrality Surrender Monkey takes Google to task for “abandoning” consumers. Fortune’s Google’s motives for abandoning Net Neutrality contains the following opening paragraph:

It’s now clear that Google underestimated the public’s desire for true net neutrality over both wireless and wired services — something the company quickly discovered after issuing  a joint policy recommendation with Verizon last week.

However this isn’t the first significant PR miscalculation from Google. Buzz and privacy obviously comes to mind from the immediate past.

How/why did Google not see the negative reaction this announcement would create? Is it arrogance; is it naïveté? Or did Google anticipate the criticism but simply assume it would blow over?

I’m not going to weigh in on the specifics of the Google-Verizon agreement; I haven’t really studied it to form a thoughtful perspective. My “visceral” reaction is negative however. But there are plenty of articles out that do go into depth about the implications.

Google is right now perhaps at the zenith of its power in the market. But the company risks its reputation if it continues to have a “tin ear” regarding key consumer issues. Google obviously sees it very differently.

The chief difference one might argue between Google and Bing is Google’s brand equity. We could argue about core relevance and features but Bing has become a very good search engine.

If Google taints its brand with unfriendly “big brother” or “corporate behemoth” associations — some argue it’s too late to avoid that — it risks eroding the brand equity and good will it has built over more than a decade. That will over the long term translate into market share erosion. Google’s power and positions have been causing legal and regulatory problems in Europe for some time.

An engineering culture and the Google brand are probably the company’s two main assets. There are also revenues and cash, of course. But the value of the Google brand cannot be underestimated as a factor in its continued success.

By taking very public positions that seem contrary to its users’ interests Google puts that brand at risk.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Google: Business Issues | Google: Mobile | Google: Web Search

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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