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Is Google’s brand dead?

There are many ways to wreck a brand - Toyota’s been doing its best recently and history is full of examples.

I played a part in wrecking the Haig Scotch Whisky brand myself so I speak with some authority - for a change. That was a price positioning mistake - too cheap in a sector where image is vital.

But Google’s crassness in revealing people’s contacts when it launched its Buzz Twitterlite service last week is so arrogant, so irresponsible and so stupid that it’s got to be a classic.

In case you haven’t heard, Google launched Buzz to users of its Gmail service and just to help people get started, (because Google’s like that, it really wants to help), its default was to show some of the people that a user mails most frequently on the user’s contacts. As invasions of privacy go, this is top of the Premiership.

Suppose you’re a dissident in a country like Burma, North Korea or Iran and you use Gmail. How long before the secret police come knocking at your comrades’ doors?

When a company puts commercial gain before its values (er, anyone remember ‘don’t do evil’), it’s usually heading for trouble. And when it copies other company’s products with inferior imitations and uses its market dominance aggressively, it’s supposed to be called Microsoft, not Google.

The rot started when the company put shareholder interests before its ideals and signed a pact with the devil in China.

Somebody at the Googleplex needs to get a grip. They’ve undone the default but the damage is done.

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