Google’s Branding Issue

In the philosophy section of Google’s corporate website at http://www.google.com/corporate/tenthings.html, Google publicizes 10 statements that articulate their general principals of behavior with which they try to operate. It’s a great thing to have in a website. We’ve recommended it to many clients. It tells your customers and potential customers just who are you are what you stand for. It gives them concrete information that goes deeper than a specific product or service offering, that helps them understand who you are as a company behind the scenes. It gives customers a reason to become fans, to believe in you, to develop loyalty to you.

But just this past January (two months ago), Google got into trouble in the media for seeming to cooperate with government sensors in China who wanted to monitor internet searches and violate the privacy of searchers within Chinese borders. In the end, Google pulled out of the opportunity to offer Google services in China stating that doing so was against one of its core principals — “Do no evil.” Violating people’s privacy was among the acts of evil Google did not want itself to be associated with. They pretty much passed on the business to expand into China.

So the question is: Are statements of principals like this a bad idea? Can they limit your future opportunities? Can they end up being something you regret committing to?

I suppose each company has to answer that for themselves. But I tend to think that the business gained by being a company of principles you are willing to live by — even when its inconvenient — says a lot of good about you as a company. Customers really want to know your company stands for something. That companies are about more than just collecting of fees and profits.

I really admired Google for walking the talk and delivering on principles they clearly really meant even if they had to pass on a big business opportunity to do it.

– Chris

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